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  • Congrats to the Caps!

    So the Capitals won D.C.’s first major championship in 26 years early late last night, sending the area into a frenzy. Of course, given everything, I couldn’t resist a few one-liners about the victory:

    • I guess this means Russians get to go to the White House — legitimately this time.

    • In UNC terms, D.C. looks like Franklin Street right now ... on steroids.

    • Finally, we have a crowd in DC that’s not protesting. That’s a relief.

  • Random Thoughts: Quotes to Ponder

    Two quotes worth pondering:

    — “Some people don't get metaphor at all, so anything one says from the podium to an audience of millions must be taken at face value” — James McMurtry

    — “We are a violent people with a violent history, and the instinct for violence has seeped into our national life" — historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., marking the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination.

  • Random Thoughts & Observations

    A few snippets from the Random Thoughts file...

    • Have you ever had one of those days that feels like a month, or one of those months that feels like a year? Around these parts, we call it May. (Other candidates receiving votes include January, February, March, April, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.)

    • This is a first: Asked on Air Force One if Mr. Trump had any reaction to Roseanne's cancellation, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I think we have a lot bigger things going on in the country right now.” 

    • Thank you to actor Wil Wheaton for this blog post on dealing with chronic depression and anxiety. This is my favorite part: "I was paralyzed by What If-ing anxiety. All the things that people do when they are living their lives … all those experiences that make up a life, my anxiety got in between me and doing them. So I wasn’t living. I was just existing."

    ••••••

    • Snippet of a conversation with the oldest while #stilldriving and #stoppedforgas on what is the #neverendingroadtrip...
    — Nicholas: “Dad, after this week, you need a drink.”
    — Me: “I need a drunk.”

    ••••••

    • Dear large hotel lighting designers: Did photographers do something to upset you in a past life? If so, on behalf of all of us, I beg forgiveness and reconciliation. Sincerely, Me (#IAmNotACaveman)

    ••••••

    • Which is more satisfying, typing the long not-so-nice message or deleting it a character at a time?

    ••••••

    • Anyone else feel like Mother Nature is going through the mutha of all midlife crises?

    ••••••

    • My kids were snuggled tightly in the Toy Story demographic, so I find myself quoting early Pixar — and The Emporer's New Groove — frequently. How about you?

  • Notes From the 'Empty Nesters' File

    This past week, I realized something I knew deep down but had never articulated: I like exercise as long as it’s organic.

    Faced with a walk-first mentality, I’m happy to stroll around or bike until my feet want to fall off, using trains or cars only as necessary. Put in a drive-first situation, my embedded laziness takes over. The only exercise I seem to get then is typing on my laptop or phone or clicking the camera shutter. After 17 years in the suburbs, all I'm left with are really strong hands.

    Over the past two-plus months, Jill and I moved ourselves from Lorton to Alexandria, with help on a couple of occasions from friends and family. Although I’ve never been in the military, I’m pretty sure it was a 53-year-old’s version of boot camp: several weeks of hell followed by a big reward.

    On Sunday, we drove to Springfield Mall to shop in an actual store and see a movie for Mother’s Day. It was the first time I’ve been in a car in five days — one of the longest “no automobile” stretches of my life since my teens —and I haven’t missed it at all. Not one bit.

    That might seem strange given that I grew up in Texas, where public transportation is defined in the state Constitution as “build another loop,” and have driven back and forth to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York numerous times over the years to see our kids. (By my estimate, I’ve easily driven more than 1 million miles since getting my driver’s license in — gulp! — 1981.)

    Since the move to Old Town, I’ve walked at least 3 to 4 miles daily and have gone on three bike rides in the past 10 days. The exercise has been good for the mind and soul, not to mention the waistline.

    For that, I’m grateful.

    Additional observations from the “recently moved empty nesters” file:

    • My most recent bike ride was 21 miles, the longest I’ve ridden in at least five years. I enjoyed all but the last three miles of it, which is when my body’s hashtag became #hipsdontlie. Two days later, I’m ready to go out again.

    • Commuter transportation is not perfect. I thought Metro was underselling itself with its marketing theme, “Back to Good,” then realized while traveling into D.C. this week that the tagline might be a tad ambitious. Still, there’s a lot to be said for walking to the Metro and not having to deal with the car/train/car commute. (Or worse, just the car commute.)

    • Surviving the sale of one house and the purchase of another within a two-month period is a great litmus test for your marriage/friendship/partnership. What I appreciate most about Jill is that our differences mostly compliment each other. It's OK to divide as long as you can conquer in the long run, and we've managed to do that. 

    • Moving inputs and outputs: Six days a week, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have a love-hate relationship with our front porch. On the seventh day, the City of Alexandria’s sanitation/recycling departments dread coming to our backyard to scoop up the remains.

    • Styrofoam pieces and peanuts are like glitter: No matter how much you sweep, you can never completely rid yourself of either one.

    • We are the sole reason cardboard sales were at an all-time high in the second quarter of 2018.

    • “Some assembly required” remain the three dirtiest words in the English language.

  • A Couple of Music Moments

    Anyone who knows me — well or not — knows I'm a huge music fan. I love nothing more than discovering new artists, revisiting established ones, and learning what makes writers and creators of some of my favorite sounds tick. Here are two videos worth your time, with memories of my own attached.

    This is one of my all-time favorite songs, part of a live album that came out a couple of months before my dad died. "For Jack Tymon" by Scott Miller is a song that tells the story of my love for Nick, Kate, Ben, and Emma in a mere 2:59. Definitely worth a listen.

    Somewhere around the one hour, 13-minute mark in this recording, Paul Westerberg makes my all-time favorite live show a classic. At the end of "Love You in the Fall," a song from the animated movie Open Season, Tommy Stinson talks about the project and tries to give a nonessential piece of The Replacements canon a boost.

    At which point Westerberg says, "This one's better," and launches into "Can't Hardly Wait." 15,000 fans roared and sang along. It was a moment I will never forget.

    (BTW: The photo on this video is one I took, which makes it even better.)

  • Random Thoughts and Meanderings

    A few random thoughts that have been floating around in my head recently:

    • Question: Does asking the Starbucks barista to turn down the loud music have a certain "get off of my lawn" quality to it? #cancelthenoise #thisismysatelliteoffice #ADDanyway #hiphopisnohelp

    • I really wish creativity had an off/on switch.

    • Passing by a TV, I recently saw the headline, “Trump ‘very unhappy’ with press secretary’s response to porn star.” I can’t even dignify that with a sigh.

    • Speaking of which, how can our First Lady be sincere about her cyber bullying platform when she lives with the biggest Twitter bully of all time?

  • A Few Random Thoughts

    A few more in the series of random thoughts:

    • I miss the days when our president actually had a “strategery.”

    • Yep.

    • Re: The strange and blustery weather that brought  70-mph winds to the D.C. region, leaving hundreds of thousands without power: “Even Mother Nature is pissed at Trump. We are just caught in the crosshairs.”

    • I’ve found playing the Live at Maxwell’s version of "Hayday" by The Replacements to be oddly soothing while shopping at Home Depot, aka the ninth circle of hell.

  • More Random Thoughts

    Four more from the Random Thoughts file:

    • Remember the “Red Light! Green Light!” game we played as kids? NoVA engineers lost that game a bunch and are taking out their childhood frustrations on the drivers of today.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that those who designed the roads apparently whistled “Over the river and through the woods...” while they worked. #dontwhistle #AMcommute #hateNoVAtraffic

    • RIP, Joel Markowitz. Thank you for encouraging me to write for your website about the challenges of being a "Stage Dad." But, even more important, thank you for supporting so much of the region's theatre through your work. You are (and will be) missed.

    • Post-election commentary: Hey, Virginia, what have I missed? Santa came early, and he's real?!?

    • Saddest and truest line of the day, from a Facebook friend: We binge watch tragedy.

  • Alabama, Roy Moore, & Political Notes

    Post-Alabama election random thoughts after voters picked Doug Jones over Roy Moore and the horse he rode in on. 

    • Well, I'll be damned. There is a Santa Claus.

    • I've found Charlie Sheen's comeback role. He can go into full make up, wig, and fat suit, and play Trump on basic cable. TruTV has its first Emmy winner, I'm sure.

    • Dear Mr. Bannon (aka Angel of Death),

    Welcome to your cold day in hell. Have a piece of coal to warm you up.

    Sincerely, The Electorate

  • Random Thoughts: Travel Version

    Leaving Nashville after shooting a conference there...

    • Going to the airport at 6:30 a.m. was bad planning on my part. Doing so to the strains of Celine Dion belting “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the shuttle is enough to make me add Tennessee Whiskey to my morning coffee.

    • Being stuck inside at the Gaylord Opryland for four days straight makes you wonder if you've been transported into the redneck sequel to the Truman Show.

    • You know you’re in a red state when you are labeled a communist for ordering unsweet tea.

    • Ok, so if you're feeling down, tired, blue, etc., take a moment to congratulate someone on Facebook. Given all the crap we see on there at times, just seeing those happy balloons pop up can make your day. Plus, it doesn't hurt to spread some positive vibes once in a while.

  • Real-Time World Series Thoughts

    A few real-time lines from the Astros’ win over the Dodgers in Game 7:

    • Smoltz: The Dodgers have squandered too many opportunities in the first three innings. Me: I’m good with that.

    • Has anyone else noted the Clayton Kershaw-Blake Shelton resemblance?

    • You know you’re in trouble when the catcher shouts “Omaha!”

    • Three words that fail to inspire confidence: Astros pitching change.

    • Another lookalike: Justin Turner and the pirate impersonator from Dodgeball. (Chris Elliot works, too.)

    • 6 outs to go. Here’s hoping ghosts of 1980, 1981 and 1986 are left in the darkness of the Astrodome right now.

    • Holy shit! Wow. Wow. Wow.

    • Is it appropriate to insert the f-word between halla and lejuah? It is tonight.

    • It’s not fake news: The Astros have won the World Series!!!

  • 'Mean Girls' and Astros = Good Night

    A great evening. Saw the invited dress for Mean Girls — wow — and then watched the wild ending of Game 5 of the World Series that the Astros won 13-12. With Nick, Conner and Jill, no less. I’m feeling good.

    Interesting factoid that proves something special is happening with the Astros: Kershaw's lifetime record in games where the Dodgers gave him a lead of four runs or more was 100-1.

  • More Baseball (Sorry Not Sorry)

    • Halle-damn-lujah: One of my two favorite teams is going to the World Series!

    • Stat worth noting: Since the Wild Card went into play, no team has beaten both the Red Sox and Yankees to reach the World Series. Until last night...

  • Two Random Thoughts

    • Love this quote: "The great thing about writing and creating is, time disappears. You are in the moment, and the moment can go for eight hours or for two minutes, or whatever, until the phone rings, or you know, you have to go get something to eat." — Stephen Sondheim

    • Happy birthday, Dad. Wish you were with us in body, not just in spirit, so we could celebrate with cake and a VHS movie of your choice.

  • Random Thoughts: Harvey's Aftermath

    Random thoughts about Hurricane Harvey in the wake of the devastating storm:

    • Tonight, Jill noted a common link to Harvey and Irma: The Washington Nationals, who played against the Astros in the final series at Minute Maid and are in Miami playing the Marlins through Wednesday.

    • Dear Looters: In case you're looking for a place to stay during the post-hurricane cleanup, I'm sure a number of people will be happy to reserve you a spot in eternal hell.

    • Non-Texans, give this a read. It's the best explanation I've seen yet about the evacuate/don't evacuate aspect of the storm.

    • I wish someone could write "Texas on My Mind" and capture some of the thoughts rolling through my head. Seeing the photos and reading the stories, I just can't find the words.

    My thoughts are with all of you.

  • The Day in Headlines

    First day of school photos. Houses flooding. Stories of everyday heroes. More rains coming. More tears flowing. The same ole' political snark. Richard Nixon 2.0. Strong will amid desperation and determination.

    "I read my news feed today, oh boy..."

  • The Politically Correct 'Duck'

    Today’s politically correct word: Duck. For those times when you are asked your opinion on something and can’t decide between the S and the F on the keyboard.

    Examples:

    • What do you think? Well, duck.

    • How’s life? Just ducky.

    • How’s your team playing? They’re ducking.

    See, it works!

  • Random Thoughts

    A few random thoughts from the past week:

    • Line of the day: Treat others how you'd like to be treated and we'll all live happily ever after.

    • RIP to Sam Shepard, a renaissance man and true artist, in many more ways than one.

    • Beyond proud of Nicholas as he starts grad school in Elon's iMedia program, and grateful for the time we've had together during his "funemployment" tour. 

    • My life's hashtag should be: #justcan'twaittogetontheroadagain. This week, I drove to Norfolk for a dance conference, then turned around and went to Pittsburgh to move Emma into school, where she is working as a "resident educator" — most of us call them RAs — this year. Look at how much our girl has grown up since the far left picture was taken at the start of her freshman year last August. 

    On the political front…

    • This is life at the White House:

    • Breaking "news": Revolving doors with gold plated T's belatedly installed in West Wing at cost of $1.2 billion. Trump blames media.

    • And one more on the subject courtesy of Bloom County.

  • Random Thoughts: More Political Madness

    • I just blocked @realDonaldTrump on Twitter. Symbolic I know, but given how constipated our Congress is these days, I thought it was the bigly move.

    • Trump's trans ban and McConnell's health care push can mean only one thing: We're living in Pleasantville: The Horror Musical. #NoTransBan

    • There are a lot of things I could say about the actions of our country's "leaders" this week, but I don't want to get into some keyboard pissing contest that shows yet again how polarized we are as a country. (Liquids are not good for keyboards anyway.)

    Instead, I will leave you with this...

  • Home Sweaty Home

    So I get home from the long trip to a flat tire and no AC in the house. This is how I feel after the two-week travel extravaganza…

    Leaving Texas last week, I was more convinced than ever that Houston is the place where the phrase "body spritzing" was coined. If the AC doesn’t get fixed soon, I might have to reconsider that notion.

    And finally, speaking of Texas, I’ve reached the belated (and foregone) conclusion that Houston also is the epicenter of donuts, barbeque and Tex-Mex. #foodstaples

  • RoboCallers, Meet RoboCop

    Dear RoboCallers from "Autumn Hills, Mich.," "Arlington, Va.," and "Chicago":

    I'm not interested in refinancing my house, getting government-sponsored forgiveness on student debt, adding to my home's security system, or extending the warranty on my car. And despite what you may think, I've been on the West Coast this week, so I sure as hell don't appreciate the fact that you're calling from wherever the hell you are at 4:30 am PST.*

    I wish I could petition our government to get rid of all of you, but my sources on the East Coast tell me they're busy trying to screw up things other things families actually need in their lives, like health care. And because getting rid of all the robocalls is something everyone can get behind, it won't happen. They're too busy in their partisan closets to actually agree on something.

    Why don't you spend time calling their cellphones instead? I'm sure the Russians can help with that one.

    Sincerely, The Masses

    (* Of course, I was up already, but that's a different story.)

  • Thoughts on the Creative Process, Health Care

    An excerpt from Patti Smith's new book on the creative process:

    “Why is one compelled to write? To set oneself apart, cocooned, rapt in solitude, despite the wants of others. Virginia Woolf had her room. Proust his shuttered windows. Marguerite Duras had her muted house. Dylan Thomas his modest shed."

    I have Starbucks.

    ••••••

    More on the creative process, courtesy of John Doe, another of my favorite musicians:

    “One of the reasons I'm here is to make stuff. To make songs and to be an actor and do art and things like that, so that's what's important. You shouldn't worry about what your rewards are. Your reward should be having created that thing.

    “I hardly ever wake up and think, ‘Oh, today I'm gonna write a song.’ It just happens. And I think it's the same as — again, to get philosophical — a lot of things, the more time you put into it, the more reward comes out of it. So if I'm writing and playing most every day, then more stuff will come out of it. If I put it away, then there's other stuff that's going on in your head. If you have a down period, try not to get frightened of it or don't get spooked by it. Just let it go. Let it go until you feel like playing again.” 

    ••••••

    Three thoughts on the current debate over the health care bill:

    • The great irony of the current political debacle is those who protest “Obamacare” so fervently are the ones whose constituents benefit most from the Affordable Care Act. Think about that one for a minute.

    • I can’t begin to tell you how much I dislike Mitch McConnell, who is locked up in his own power grid.

    • Finally, Bloom County gets it right yet again…

  • Random Thoughts: More Trump Tweets

    A few recent tweets related to the White House mess…

    • Tonight on Fantasy Island: The tapes boss! They'll find the tapes! Or it's a remake of "Hell Can Wait." You pick.

    • What are the odds that Rosenstein hears the words, "You're fired"? #ImpeachTrumpPence

    • My Facebook was hacked when Trump did something involving Mike Flynn. Now it happened right after Comey was sent packing. Coincidence, or is my paranoia showing?

    • "Describe this administration in 2 words."

    "I'll give it a shot."

    (Pretends to think about it.)

    "Shit show."

    "Correct! You win nothing!"

  • Post-Surgery: Day 5

    Post surgery update, Day 5: Better today, but still uncomfortable. Found a way to sleep that worked for the most part, so that's a minor victory.

    Random observations:

    1) Growing up in the 1970s, I never understood the phrase "gas crisis." Until this week, that is.

    2) Speaking of obscure '70s references, I keep having a recurring dream of Burgess Meredith shouting, "The body, Rock! The body!" and being on the receiving end.

    3) The song that keeps running through my head is Alabama Shakes' "Hold On." Watch the video and you'll see what I mean.

     

  • Post-Surgery, Day 5

    Post surgery update, Day 5: Better today, but still uncomfortable. Found a way to sleep that worked for the most part, so that's a minor victory.

    Random observations:

    1) Growing up in the 1970s, I never understood the phrase "gas crisis." Until this week, that is.

    2) Speaking of obscure '70s references, I keep having a recurring dream of Burgess Meredith shouting, "The body, Rock! The body!" and being on the receiving end.

    3) The song that keeps running through my head is Alabama Shakes' "Hold On." Watch the video and you'll see what I mean.

     

  • Random Thoughts: Ten Trump Tweets

    Here are 10 tweets about our current government situation from the last month (give or take). Note: I'm not a fan, so please feel free to move to the next post if you are easily offended.

    • Arsenic in the Clown Car: Mike Flynn. Yep, the guy who shouted "lock her up" and said anyone seeking immunity is admitting guilt is trying to avoid jail by asking for that same protection. Sure, Mike, sure.

    • FDR: New Deal. DJT: No deal.

    • Don't say you didn't say it. You did. Take responsibility. Admit that threading the legislative needle is tough. That would be true change.

    • When you try to "drain the swamp," sometimes the alligators and ogres get pissed and bite back. #trumpcare #SavetheACA

    • Broadway's new show! April Fools Day: The Kellyanne Conway Revue. Songs: Ain't Misbehavin, Razzle Dazzle, Sue Me, and Making Things Up Again

    • Trump speech drinking games? Shots for every word with 2 or more syllables? I think I'll find a sports bar instead.

    • America's new standard of excellence: Acting like a normal person. Hell, if he'd done that well on The Apprentice, he would have an Emmy.

    • When you think he's acting presidential, ask: How many reality shows are really real? Then say "reality shows are really real" 5 times fast.

    • The phrase "Trumpcare" is an oxymoron in and of itself. #Trumpcare

    • Contradiction: He puts his name on everything ... everything. And yet, he doesn't seem to want the health care bill to bear his name. #bs

  • Random Thoughts: It's Not Spring Yet (!)

    A few from the “It’s Not Spring Yet (!) Random Thoughts” file….

    • Welcome, my friends, to the day that never ends. All I want to do is go outside, go outside...

    • Spring-like weather. Spring-like allergies. And then the temperature drops 60 degrees. It’s a rollercoaster ride that never ends.

    #winter(ha!)2017

    • Why I don't like Duke basketball...

    • Professor Chris Poulos touts a word he learned at a dinner in 2013: exhaustipated — too tired to give a crap. (Courtesy of my friend Mike Clark)

    • The new PP: Potty Police.

    • I interrupt this political commentary hiatus for a moment to note a contradiction. Our president puts his name on everything ... everything. And yet, he doesn't seem to want the health care bill to bear his name. Of course, as another friend noted, the phrase "Trumpcare" is an oxymoron in and of itself.

    • And finally, you gotta wonder if Steve Earle would be on Jeff Sessions' iPod...

    Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

  • Random Thoughts: Post-Oscars Edition

    A few thoughts post-Oscars:

    • Despite the end-of-show flub, the awards largely went to the right movies and performers. I was happy to see the Best Picture/Best Director split between “Moonlight” and “La La Land.” The acting categories were as expected, and it’s tough to dispute the right people won.

    • Viola Davis, in my view, gave the best performance of any actress this year, and her speech was beautiful without being overly political. Best part: “There’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place. And that’s the graveyard.”

    • Davis, with her win, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, with his loss, are still one win away from the EGOT. If I’m a betting man, I would go with Miranda, but don’t count Davis out.

    • Say what you will about “O.J.: Made in America” being an ESPN product. It still deserved the Oscar as Best Documentary.

    • The kids are all right: The little boy from “Lion” is beyond cute, but 16-year-old Auli’I Cravalho really won me over with her performance of “How Far I’ll Go.” Beautiful voice, and she wasn’t rattled a bit after being hit in the head by a ribbon twirler while belting out the song.

    • “Manchester by the Sea” is a beautifully acted and written movie that I will never watch again.

    • Best Tweet: #merylsayshi

    • The tour bus bit went on too long, but I didn’t mind it that much. The woman who snagged Jennifer Aniston’s glasses and was “married” by Denzel Washington obviously had a great time.

    • If I’m an official at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I’m blaming Putin.

  • Pre-Inauguration Random Thoughts

    Four more thoughts before I go back to my day job:

    1. Finally, a soundbite for liberals: Make America Smart Again.

    2. Subtitle for Inauguration Day: Freaky Friday.

    3. Ringling Bros. may be going out of business, but not before serving as chief sponsor of this week's confirmation hearings.

    4. Thank God for Bloom County.

    Now back to our regularly scheduled programming, as soon as I can remember where my ADD meds are.

  • One Month In: Talking Trump on Twitter

    Facebook seems to erupt in a war when I post something that half my "friends" don't agree with, so I've decided Twitter is the place to be for posting political-type thoughts now.

    You can follow me @ourrealityshow. Every month or so, I’ll post a series of recent tweets here as part of the “Random Thoughts” series, but please note that they are less filtered, occasionally profane, and quite barbed in some cases. (Just like someone else who's always on Twitter.)

    If you’re easily offended, please skip onto the next post.

    Here are some of my posts from the first month of the new administration:

    • It's possible that Trump could be the first president in history to keep his campaign promises. Scary thought...

    • Trump's version of Friday Night Lights: "Tiny Hands, Cold Heart, Can Lose."

    • So Twitter is suggesting I follow Vice President Pence. To which I say, hell to the no. (And that is putting it mildly.)

    • Trending now: #Gotham, #Lucifer, #TheBachelor. Without looking, which one is referring to Trump?

    • Just curious, if the American public could seek an involuntary commitment, would it actually happen? #onecanonlyhope #2018cantcomesoonenough

    • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is too relevant for a revival right now. Or is it?

    • The Trump Administration apparently watches Parks & Rec and believes it's a serious documentary worth following as gospel.

    • Mark my words: Nothing changes unless Congress does in 2018. Think about that for a moment.

    • I've always been told that time flies when you get older. So why can't I blink and find myself in 2021?

    • I would like to go through one day over the next 4 years without saying "What the actual f---." Punctuation optional.

     

    • Ass: Hole, hat, jack, or “all of the above”? With Trump, my vote is for D.

    • Misogynists, racists and billionaires are now in charge. Now there's a history lesson for us all.

    • The Proofreaders Association of America has offered to help the Trump Administration with its Twitter accounts.

    • The GOP resisted when #ShePersisted, resulting in another new low in the annals of civil discourse.

    • Just saw a headline calling Donald Trump the "Religious Right's Trojan Horse." Wish someone had used a Trojan condom instead...

    • Getting really tired of the pronoun problem this country has. It's supposed to be "We the People," not "You People."

    • Not listening to the other side is, in some ways, just as bad as not voting. In fact, it's worse, because it perpetuates think-alike voting.

    • If I unfollowed/unfriended those who disagree with my views, the world would be a lonely place.

    • Trump protests the steady stream of media leaks about his phone calls. I want to wrap the Red Phone in Depends & duct tape & call it a day.

    • If Trump led a band, which do you think is the more appropriate name: Circle Jerks or Crash Test Dummies?

    • The only thing good to come from all of this is that I haven't seen a Kardashian headline in a couple of weeks.

    • Via text, I asked a career government employee how it's going. Response: "Just ducky," straddling the line between the S and F on the keyboard.

  • Pre-Christmas Randoms

    After a week of illness in the family, a Facebook hack, and the final flurry of shopping, here are a few pre-Christmas random thoughts:

    • USPS at the holidays: On the last Monday before Christmas, the 8:30 a.m. line at the post office rivals that of the DMV next door.

    • Ben truism: You know you're in a theater family when you "call out" sick rather than "call in" sick.

    • Memo to the alien bug that invaded our bodies last week: This is your formal eviction notice. Despite the cold and windy weather, please seek shelter outside our home effective immediately.

    • More cold commentary: I hear the roar of the ocean. Unfortunately it's inside my head. #hatethissnotshit

    • After my Facebook was briefly hacked: If you get a friend request from me, don't accept it. As far as I can tell, we're already friends... Or, in political speak: Damn those Russians.

    • Finally, here’s one worth watching. In the spirit of the holidays, we were so glad to see Walter White come back from the dead.

     

  • Random Thoughts: Political Seasoning

    With only thirtysomething days until the election (thank goodness), I guess it’s not surprising that this edition of “Random Thoughts” is heavily tilted toward politics in some way. So here are some observations from the past month or so.

    • Pronoun Trouble: As the son of a middle school history teacher, I think I've finally figured out one of our country's biggest problems: We have pronoun trouble.

    Every time I try to make a seemingly rational comment about this election, or one that at least merits more discussion, I get lumped into the "you people" group. But if I remember my history lessons correctly, "We the people" is how it should work.

    • What Matters: Several weeks ago, I made a "mistake" when I said "all lives matter." And while I believe that to be true (as we all should), there's no question that the antagonism and, at times, outright hatred that folks in power display toward African-Americans is just wrong.

    Just because you have an itchy trigger finger, or are afraid of a person just because the color of their skin, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation frightens you does not give you or anyone else the right to do what is done over and over and over.

    Put the damn guns down. Stop this uninformed hatred. Take 60 seconds and use the brain you were given before you hit "Post."

    For God's sake, this has to end now. Please.

    • Wise Advice: Courtesy of the Internet, here are some things to think about:

    • Drop the Mic: No matter how you feel about the issue, this is campaign ad is one of the best I've seen in years.

     

    Dear Former Gov. Perry: Charles Durning did it better. Sincerely, Cast and Crew of "So You Think You Can Dance"

    Mr. Breathed Continues to Hit it Out of the Park: Rather than watch the first presidential debate, Jill and I went to watch a somewhat meaningless major league baseball game. What did you do?

    Post Debate Observation: Fact averse (n., adj.): Epidemic affecting voters across the nation.

    • And finally…: Perhaps my eyes deceive me, but doesn't Kathy Bates look like she's auditioning to play David Bowie's role in the "Labyrinth" sequel?

  • A Random Travel Ramble

    Random ramble while sitting in a JiffyLube on a Saturday...

    Over the past 5 weeks, I've been out of town more than I've been at home. Work and family have taken us to Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and California, plus drive-thrus of Maryland (east and west), Delaware and New Jersey.

    One kid went to college. One filmed a movie. One went on the road for his job and the other started a new one. Jill and I spent great time together and more than a full week apart.

    The next couple of months bring the same level of intensity, as the situation flips and Jill embarks on a series of fall trips for work.

    Lots of stories and memories will find their way onto my website and Facebook business page in the coming days. Ironically, I now have 1986 likes on that page.

    1986 is the year I turned 21, never imagining for a moment I'd live this kind of life. To everyone who has made a contribution to that life, especially my family biological and extended, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Random Thoughts: Traveling Along

    Having driven more than 2,000 miles across four states over the past week, it's safe to say that:

    1) The windshield of my rental car did more than its part to reduce the bug populations of Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.

    2) Email and Facebook posts go largely by the wayside in the American West, unless you scheduled them in advance. I'm just now checking email for the first time in several days, and it's not pretty.

    3) I still don't understand why Utah convenience stores close at 10 p.m. Is post-11 p.m. really too late?

    4) Sitting with my wife at a bar, shooting the bull and watching the Olympics in a place where the Winter Games once were held, remains one of the most pleasurable experiences I could have.

    5) I don't like red eyes. To quote Danny Glover, I'm too old for this shit.

    See you on the other side, folks...

  • Random Thoughts: Pre-College Version

    A few random thoughts en route to dropping Emma off at Point Park University:

    • This past weekend, as a farewell of sorts, our longtime friend Tom Pratt gave the girls, Nicholas and his girlfriend Conner a tour of the West Wing and the White House. Ginno and Elie came from New York, and we had a lovely time.

    The best part of this story, however, occurred before the tour. I had mentioned to Ginno and Elie that “business casual” dress was required, but failed to let Nick know. My son has to wear a suit to work every day, so he likes to be as casual — but stylish — as possible on the weekends.

    I guess it should not have come as a surprise that he came downstairs in shorts, but he didn’t even bring pants on the trip up from North Carolina. So he and Conner had to make a mad dash to get pants at the last minute just to get through security.

    As Jill said, “That’s totally something you would do.” I could only reply with, “Yep, he’s my son.”

    • In honor of our last child's college orientation, my forehead is the recipient of an enormous stress zit, proving yet again that you're never too far away from your inner 18-year-old.

    • Jill says she can’t go anywhere without me bumping into someone I know. It happened on our honeymoon 20 years ago, when I saw a couple I knew from Texas while hiking at Mount Rainier. And it occurred again on our vacation to Utah.

    Lynne Barnes, a good friend whose daughter was on the Billy Elliot tour with Ben, and I bumped into each other at a restaurant in Moab. I had gone to get dinner and went to the restroom when Lynne sent me a text saying she had seen my “twin.” I didn’t think anything of it until I got a tap on the shoulder and there she was. Small world…

    • A recent study said intelligent people tend to be messy, stay awake longer and swear more. If this is the case, I’m a genius.

  • A Summer Driver's Ed Class

    Dear Drivers of America:

    We'd like to take a moment to escape from the election rhetoric and poop-slinging for a brief summer school remedial driver's ed Top 10 list. Based on our recent highway experiences, these are the things we feel the general public needs to brush up on.

    1. Let's start with the brush, and other personal grooming decisions made behind the wheel. Or better yet, let's not. As in don't do it.

    2. "Pump Up the Jams" is a song. It should not be your approach to the brake pedal. Or the accelerator, for that matter.

    3. "Rubberneckin'" is an Elvis Presley song, not a habit you should get into while driving.

    4. "Speed limit" really should just be retitled "Speed." That way, drivers who get in the left lane and go 15 mph under would know that it is both wrong and stupid, as well as impolite. Same would go for the ones who are in a constant state of auditioning for the White Rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland."

    5. If you must engage in finger pointing, remember that the longest one is not necessarily the right one.

    6. If someone behind the wheel is having trouble and points the longest finger at you, don't shout or point back. Mutter under your breath. Keeps things from escalating.

    7. Remember how your mom told you to stay out of the middle of the street? Or those days when she felt like telling you to go play in traffic? Because it's summer, be aware that other neighborhood parents are likely telling their kids one, the other, or both on a frequent basis. Approach your neighborhood accordingly.

    8. Stop (sign or light) means Stop. It does not mean pull out your phone and compose a lengthy email or text to your first cousin twice removed.

    9. Speaking of texting (note the irony in that phrase), don't do it. It can wait. Really it can.

    10. Leave the stupid at home. Please. The universe thanks you.

    Bonus from a Facebook friend: All cars made in the last 50 years have turn signals. Use them. 

  • Yep...

    I shared this post (from Isaac McKay via Instagram) and was surprised by the response it received. More than 170 likes, another 20-plus shares, and several comments. What's so interesting is that these friends are on both sides of the political spectrum, proving (at least anecdotally) that we are not nearly as far apart as we think.

    And that's the best news I've heard all week.

  • Election Madness, Bloom County Style

    I hope we don’t wake up after the election and say, “We’ve been trumped.” Wonder what the Brits are saying today…

  • Random Thoughts: Early Summer Edition

    Random thoughts from the past few days. The first one is serious and deserves serious debate. The rest? Not so much...

    • After the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas involving police officers and African-American men, I scanned my Facebook feed and had this thought: “Summer vacations. Anger. Beach trips. Grief. Family birthdays. Shouting and rage. Tears of sadness and joy. TBTs and FBFs. A stark reminder that life matters. All lives matter. ALL.”

    • If Opus and Bill don't get on the ticket, then here is a logical alternative...

    • That moment when your cat sounds like he's chewing his dry food a little too loudly, then you realize he's just trying to bathe himself. Ick...

    • How someone can use the phrase "getaway" with regard to holiday traffic is beyond me.

    • Start of summer exchange heard in households around the world...

    — Child: "But nothing bad happened!"

    — Parent Auto-Reply: "This time..."

  • Random Thoughts, Oh My...

    When you know you shouldn't click on the link, only to find yourself drawn like a moth to the light. And the light turns out to be a bug zapper. Dear Lord... (Feel free to fill in the rest.)

    ••••••

    Regarding the Stanford University athlete that received a slap on the wrist for a rape conviction, this tweet was the best response I've seen, courtesy of @LaurenDeStefano: "If someone's a rapist and an athlete, they're not an athlete who made a mistake, they're a criminal who can swim."

    I can sympathize with the father's heartbreak, but not with his words/actions or the judge's.

    ••••••

    Given all the negatives in this post, I thought I'd end with a nicer thought: You don't have to be smart or talented, handsome or pretty. You just need to be kind.

  • Weather & Random Thoughts

    Weather and other unrelated random thoughts from a waterlogged brain....

    Dear Mother Nature:

    Shrek called. He wants his swamp back.

    Sincerely, Donkey

    p.s. Please stop being such a pain in the ass.

    ••••••

    • It's been so wet and rainy here that I thought briefly about building an ark. Then I quickly realized Trump would want the naming rights and ditched that plan.

    • Mixing politics and Broadway: Sondheim should write a sequel to "Assassins" and call it "Casting Stones," featuring characters playing Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich and Kenneth Starr.

    • At what point does ambition segue into nostalgia?

  • Post-Opening Random Thoughts

    Post-New York randoms a week after Tuck Everlasting opened on Broadway:

    • Master of the Obvious: Well, that was a trip I won’t soon forget.

    • The best part of the trip was getting to spend some quality alone time with my boys. I don’t get to do that enough.

    • The second best part was seeing my son do what he loves, and seeing his siblings happy to be part of the experience. We missed Kate not being there, though.

    • Watching a friend tap dance while Jon Dee Graham played an instrumental in the basement of the Hill Country BBQ was NOT the most surreal part of the trip. Close, but not quite.

    • When people are obviously trying to listen to acoustic music in a small venue, I don’t know why some feel an uncontrollable urge to turn up their inner frat-boy volume to 11.

    • I've was in way too many photos last week and not behind the camera enough. There is something wrong with this picture...

    • Things I thought I'd never say: I agree with John Boener on something. But then he had to bring up Ted Cruz.

    • Riding a bus home is OK until you get stuck in traffic and someone decides to leave the spicy burrito they ate in the bathroom 3 rows back.

    • People are bipolar. Mother Nature is not. Not sure what she is exactly, but that's a different story.

    • NYC tourist tango: 1, 2, 3 ... GAWK! 1, 2, 3 ... GAWK!

    •••••••

    Two more observations, all with accompanying art…

    • If our cats could speak English, they'd say, "See? We told you, this stuff is real..."

    • Kids, this is appropriate... (And yes, my mom did send it to me.)

  • Moving on Up: A Three-Day Journey

    It's difficult to believe it was just a week ago that I embarked on a 60-hour trip from New York to Tampa to Northern Virginia to move our daughter's stuff home. Now that our garage is sufficiently stuffed with stuff again, here is a summary of random thoughts from the long drive home.

    Day 1: Monday

    • Flying from New York to Tampa, I spent three hours on a packed airplane — window seat — with Edith Bunker and Sophia from The Golden Girls. Neither stopped talking the entire flight. One leaned over and raised my window while I was trying to take a nap, then explained three times in two minutes that she's "class-tro-phobic." I could resurrect the sitcom stereotype and run for five seasons on that material alone.

    • The weather is nice in Florida, but reminds me of growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s the last time I remember seeing I saw a mosquito drive past in an Escalade.

    • Not to make a political statement, but folks down here don’t seem to remember that the war ended 151 years ago. Of course, I know people in Texas who refuse to believe it ever joined the Union.

    Day 2: Tuesday

    • I’m in a 12-foot moving van from Florida to Northern Virginia with no CD player or aux cord and spotty FM reception. The local AM conspiracy theorists are coming through loud and clear though.

    I want to ask how it's possible to be so pessimistic and paranoid given their proximity to the happiest place on Earth, then realize I'd rather not know the answer and start searching for a sports talk channel. It’s gonna be a long trip...

    • Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Road,” his post-apocalyptic tale about a father and son traveling for months across land that has been destroyed by an unspecified cataclysmic event. Pretty much sounds like I-4 between Orlando and Jacksonville.

    • Seeing a billboard for a heart specialist between ads for Cracker Barrel and Golden Corral seems sort of beside the point, doesn't it?

    • In its next session, the Florida legislature sincerely should consider making an orange cone the state flag. That is, if Pennsylvania and Texas don’t beat them to it.

    • Spotted on I-95 after crossing the Florida line: One F-150 towing another F-150. In many states you’d say that was someone helping out a friend. Given the political climate in Georgia these days, it feels like Ford is making a commercial for Brokeback Mountain.

    • Speaking of I-95, it’s time to paraphrase Robert Earl Keen with, “The road goes on forever, but the party never begins.”

    Day 3: Wednesday

    • Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up, even if you’re working on next-to-nothing sleep at a Best Western off I-95 somewhere in the sticks of South Carolina... George Mason University received $30 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous donor to rename the law school after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. The name they came up with was The Antonin Scalia School of Law, which translates to ASSoL or ASS Law.

    Needless to say, I’m sure the Kochs weren’t happy to hear this. The name was quickly changed to The Antonin Scalia Law School.

    I needed that.

    • I’ve stopped at a couple of places along the way to take pictures. Future stories/photo essays coming up, I’m sure.

    • My grandmother rode her first horse in her mid 70s. I feel like I’ve been riding one for 800 miles.

    • One stop was in Summerton, S.C., where I spent several months researching a story for the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Almost 12 years after that story was published, not much has changed in this small town … sadly. (More on that later, too.)

    • If Pedro from South of the Border ever becomes the billboard spokesperson for 1-800-Kars4Kids, I promise you I will hurt someone. Consider that a given.

    • Post-Pedro billboard observation: North Carolina's internal conflicts are exposed in a 10-mile series of advertisements for Jesus and adult novelty stores that use the name Adam & Eve.

    • Not much to report in Virginia. Thank goodness.

    • Made it home around 9:30, about 60 hours after leaving New York. Now that all is said and done, I have driven more than 1,000 miles in 2+ days, loaded a small apartment, taken some pics and made it home alive to tell the tale.

    Not that I haven’t been telling it all along.

  • 12 Days, 7 Random Thoughts

    Seven random thoughts from the past 12 days…

    • About President Obama's selection of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court: The president went with a centrist white male whose background is in constitutional law. If a Democrat is elected to the White House and no confirmation hearings have been held, the GOP will trip over themselves trying to confirm said centrist white male. So why not do it now, or at least allow the process to take place?‪#‎doyourdamnjob

    • Next thing for the parties to argue over: Which side can legitimately claim their theme song is "All about that base. 'Bout that base. No trouble..."

    • Saw this headline and realized that even Trump could not make this one up: Stryper Frontman Denies He Is Ted Cruz.

    • It’s Girl Scout cookie season, that period of life in which smiling, pre-adolescent crack dealers stand outside suburban grocery stores on weekends. I’ll take the Tagalongs and the Thin Mints, and…

    • This week’s #HappyMonday moment: Just two hours into the work week, I was reminded that — for some people — a guillotine would be a waste of a sharp blade.

    • Simon Wright, in his “Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” blog, has summed up my musical tastes perfectly: “The uncomfortable reality is that my record collection is peopled with screwed-up individuals who self-medicated themselves into oblivion and/or an early grave but made some fine rock ’n’ roll along the way.”

    • Speaking of music and being in a general bear of a mood, Jon Dee Graham made me take note once again. All I can say is, “Yep.”

  • Random Thoughts & Full Moons

    There have been multiple instances this week to indicate a full moon is out there looming like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. That, or the zombie apocalypse is upon us.

    Either way, between the Super Tuesday results, the follow up debates, the discovery of a knife on the OJ Simpson property (now there’s a flashback), and all of the other things that have happened, it’s been a weird week. I had to check the meds I was on to see if side effects included hallucinations two weeks after use, but no luck.

    Here, just in case you’re curious, are the examples of said apocalypse, along with a few other random observations.

    • Despite our nation's ripe history of political satire, few things about the state of our country's politics are funny right now. What Trump says and charges, seemingly off the cuff, is frightening in many ways, but absolutely no laughing matter.

    It's no wonder that several musicians' whose work Trump uses to provide background music at his rallies have said, more politely than he would, "Thanks but no thanks."

    I think I've solved the background music problem, and managed to find a smile at the same time. Wonder if they'll play this at the convention when Trump and Christie are introduced...

    • Actual story in today’s Houston Chronicle: “A former teacher who believes Barack Obama used to work as a gay prostitute seems well on her way to joining the Texas State Board of Education.” Come on, Texas. Really? First, Ted Cruz and now this... WTActualF?

    • Further proof that we’re living in a strange world: I met someone this week who claimed mental illness doesn’t exist. Of course, his rant was accompanied by frequent sips of bourbon and attempts to use the f-word as a noun, adjective and verb.

    • Hint to employers: Your business culture is dysfunctional when staff members start suggesting the Betty Ford Clinic as a possible retreat site.

    • Back to national politics: If Trump, God forbid, does become president, his Secret Service code name could be "Agent Orange." Ted's would have to be "Booze Cruz." This advertisement brought to you by the Campaign for Sensible Leadership. Please vote.

    • Finally, amid the conjecture assaulting our brains, let’s end this week’s stroll down memory lane with a simple fact: Hard work doesn't make you successful. It greatly enhances your opportunity to be successful. There's a difference.

  • Random Thoughts: February 2016

    A few random thoughts from the past week or so…

    • On Antonin Scalia: The only way a Supreme Court justice can leave is by voluntarily resigning or dying. As with anyone who dies, I'm sad for his family who is mourning his passing. I am not sad for the rest of our country, however.

    • That said, Vox Policy and Politics just published a fascinating piece by Dara Lind that notes the close friendship between Scalia, by far the most conservative justice, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s most outspoken liberal. It notes that even people with vast differences can disagree vehemently and still be friends. Wish that were the case in the rest of the world.

    • Two very different trains of thought. Both are applicable this month.

    • Baby barf line of the day: "Sarah Palin, one of Trump's surrogates..." Ewww on so many counts.

    • Drivers suffering from Post Traumatic Snow Disorder apparently have forgotten their coping skills and brought out the stupid again. Joy.

    • The next time someone bitches about it being 70 degrees at Christmas, show them this...

  • Grammy Randoms

    Five random thoughts from a music fan about last night’s Grammy Awards:

    • Congratulations to all of the winners, but especially to Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton; both were very deserving. Their CDs have been on heavy rotation since their release, although it was reviews that pushed me toward Stapleton’s “Traveller.”

    • It was a pleasure to see Stapleton perform with Bonnie Raitt, and the performance by Alabama Shakes was stunning. They also won big this year, further validation for a long-time fan.

    • After Lady Gaga’s performance at the Super Bowl, I was anxious to see what she would do in her tribute to David Bowie, but found myself somewhat underwhelmed. The first half seemed like karaoke, as if she was auditioning for a “Mamma Mia” revival. She did rebound at the end with Fame, Let’s Dance, and Heroes, though.

    • Jack Sparrow got eaten by Hollywood Vampires. At least Johnny Depp’s bands are better than most of his recent movies (“Black Mass” being the lone exception).

    • The “In Memorium” section made me think, “Damn, we’ve lost way too many this year. And it’s only February.”

  • Five Random Thoughts

    From the Capital Weather Gang: "Computer models that came in between 9 p.m. and midnight forecast very substantial to historic snowfall amounts for the D.C. area Friday into Saturday night or Sunday morning." How about three seasons, Mother Nature?

    ••••••

    The only reason Sarah Palin endorsed Trump is so she could see Tina Fey again on this week's "Saturday Night Live."

    ••••••

    Speaking of Palin, she has about as much chance of being relevant as she does of being named “Mother of the Year.”

    ••••••

    Headlines you should not read during lunch: "Elton John honors David Bowie, duets with Demi Lovato."

    ••••••

    Amid the NFL playoffs, Kardashian trending updates, and chatter about the presidential debates, an overwhelming number of you took time out to send notes marking the second year of my second half-century on the planet. Thanks again to each and everyone of you. It means a lot.

  • So, It's 2016...

    • Can we all resolve to rid the world of cruelty and all-encompassing dumbassery in 2016? Just a thought...

    • I played catch up during the holidays just so I can be behind going into 2016.

    • Another thought: New year, new work week, same old me.

    • Best unintentional typo of the day: Suck a gem.

  • Random Thoughts: 2015 Holiday Edition

    Given the craziness that surrounds the month of December in our family, it should come as no surprise that I’m not the most sentimental person when it comes to Christmas. Between the political rhetoric we are seeing on the election trail, the warm weather and the release of the new “Star Wars” movie, it feels a lot more like summer than winter.

    Except for the birthdays, that is.

    Still, that hasn’t stopped me from a new edition of “Random Thoughts: Holiday Edition.” This one collects my favorite randoms from Facebook and Twitter and includes a couple of NSFW photos that you might enjoy.

    Let’s start with the photos… Each illustrates a thought or two below.

    • Donald Trump on the eve of Christmas Eve: "Peace on Earth and goodwill toward ... HA! Who am I fooling?!?"

    • I'm starting to think Mother Nature's timeline was thrown off by the fact that the Hallmark Channel starts showing Christmas movies in July. If Hallmark starts showing college football bowl games, I’m cutting the chord completely on cable. 

    • This “Saturday Night Live” skit reminds me of my father. Sad thing is, Dad couldn't decide whether to stare at his action figures or play with them, making him the eternal tweener when it came to toys. (BTW: The teen in the blue sweater in the commercial is Jeremy Zorek, who was small boy on the “Billy Elliot” tour. Time flies.)

    • Which is the fantasy here: Santa or better presidential candidates? I think it's the latter.

    • Pre-Christmas Saturday: When running a few errands takes on a whole new meaning.

    • 
Note to the guy mulling a Home Depot gift card purchase for his spouse: Don't do it.

    • What's the difference between Stump and Trump? One has been chopped down, while the other needs to be...

    •
 If parenting is survival of the fittest, then I really should go to the gym more... 

    • Not a Christmas song. Just one I can’t get out of my head — “Still Trying” by Nathaniel Rateliff.

    •  
Want to see some cool pics? Check out my FB page at www.facebook.com/ourrealityshow. (Yes, kids, some of us old people still use Facebook.)

    • All fall, something was missing. Turns out it was the master's degree I need to help my kid survive the college app/audition process. (She's doing fine, BTW.)

    • 
These posts brought to you by Procrastination (aka a writer stalling while trying to figure out the lead for a freelance story). Grr.

    Thanks to all who've followed my stream of nothingness. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. #stoptheholidaymadness.

  • A Series of Random Thoughts

    I’ve been working on a number of different projects recently that have kept me from writing for the blog. However, that hasn’t stopped the random observations from popping up on Facebook, Twitter, and other places:

    Here are a few in case you missed them, along with a couple of blog-only originals:

    On the Parenting Front…

    • In case you're wondering, the writers of "The Middle" get the majority of their material from secret cameras stashed in our house.

    • In terms of the sheer amount of heavy lifting and sweat involved, menial labor has nothing on parenting.

    • Question for those with much higher powers than me (no golf experience required): Is it possible to get a mulligan for the past few weeks? I'd appreciate it...

    • Some days, being the parent of multiple teenagers feels like you have a constant stream of flu symptoms that originated on a remote "Lost"-like island. This is one of those days...

    • "It can wait" — tagline about texting or what you should have said to your child on those rare blissful occasions when you feel a decent night's sleep coming on? Oh well...

    • For a photographer, the phrase "Aww, shoot" takes on a whole new meaning...

    We Have Pictures, Too!

    1. Excuse the language, but anyone who knows me well (or has ridden with me while I'm driving), knows this is the story of my life. Only I would have taken a better picture...

    2. For the man who thinks RedRum is a drink, or a hair color treatment. (I borrowed the photo; the caption is mine.)

    3. Pear-shaped cat walks three steps from suddenly near empty bowl, takes a siesta in protest.

    4. How I’ve felt at times over the past month. Enough said…

    And In General…

    • Call me a master of the obvious, but this was the best headline I read about the Tom Brady saga: "We've wasted 7 months talking about deflated balls."

    • Speaking of the NFL, all of my teams suck again. And that’s reality, not fantasy.

    • There’s no question, however, that sports can teach some great things, as evidenced by this video. If it doesn’t make your day and make you tear up just a little, I’ll be shocked.

    • Now trending on social media: Abby Lee Miller is the illegitimate daughter of Paula Dean. (Just kidding, but I had you there for a moment, didn't I?)

    • Correction of the Month, courtesy of the New York Times: An earlier version of this article misidentified the animal Jacob deGrom broke a finger castrating. It was a calf, not a cow.

    • I had a great time shooting the UNITE to Face Addiction rally on the National Mall earlier this month. It was a fantastic, truly meaningful event. Looking at others’ photos from the day, I found myself in the bottom right corner of one. Kinda cool…

    • Managing my time as a freelancer is much harder than managing people, but it all works out in the end. (I hope...)

    Finally...

    Now I leave you with my favorite political statement from the upcoming elections, courtesy of Mr. Berkeley Breathed, Esq.

  • Random Thoughts: Aaack!

    • What do you call a completely unplanned 554-mile, 14-hour round trip to midtown and lower Manhattan (complete with coffee, Chipotle tacos, E-Z Pass tolls, the omnipresent orange cones, and a stop at the same Maryland Sunoco on the way up and back)?

    I call it Monday.

    • That, of course, is followed by Tuesday…

    • Creativity is the salve of stress.

    • There's nothing like waiting 2+ hours to get work done on your car and having to listen to the live action "Alvin & The Chipmunks 2" playing in the next room — loudly.

  • Kindergarten Rules for Adults

    • You just gotta love it when the brain-to-mouth translator fails and something that was intended to be kind and thought-provoking comes out as tone deaf and stupid. ‪#‎thinkbeforeyouspeak‬

    • Flush and wash. Please. That is all.

    • Being kind and assertive aren't mutually exclusive. There's a reason they call it "civil discourse."

    • Civil discourse starts with respect. Remember, no one respects a doormat, or an asshat.

    • Don’t be afraid to embrace uncertainty. It's where creativity begins.

    • In most cases, perspective is the result of life's experience and the passage of time.

  • Election Day Observations

    Random thoughts as the polls finally close on one of the longest campaign periods in history...

    • Tomorrow's headline: TV, radio networks beg to extend voting for 6 months in effort to break ad revenue records. Public throws electronics out of windows en masse.

    • Best status I've seen today: Disagreement is inevitable in this world. It is how we treat one another in our disagreement that defines us.

    • Based on unofficial Facebook news feed results, stress eating has a slight edge on stress drinking among the electorate. But the race is still far too close to call.

    • Voting machine problems (apparently they weren't charged overnight) cause long lines at local precinct. Seeing a personalized license plate that reads "CALLGOD" doesn't seem to help.

    • Just curious, will people have anything to talk about on Wednesday?

  • Debating Some Questions

    During debate season, I decided to take a non-political tack, ask some burning questions, and pass on some pithy observations. Here are a few that you might find interesting and/or amusing:

    • To football fans who aren't political junkies, here is the night's most compelling question: Have you noticed that Will Ferrell and Ben Roethlisberger look like they're related?

    • Thank goodness A&E didn't pre-empt "Hoarders" or "Intervention" in a blatant play for undecideds. Lord knows I needed a dose of nonfiction TV tonight.

    • Am I the only person who worries about the future of our country every time I see three people use "your" when they mean "you're"? Or have I just not succumbed to life with "auto correct"?

    • My big non-partisan, non-debate question: Has anyone noticed that Abby Lee looks like John Travolta in Hairspray?

    • My big bipartisan, debate-related comment: Never underestimate the stupidity of the American electorate.

    • Every time I watch one of the debates, I can’t help but think, all this time I could have been watching a Honey Boo Boo marathon....

    • And finally, every year at Halloween, it seems like there’s a decided increase in the median age of trick-or-treaters. Have you noticed that too?

  • Random Thoughts: Fall Edition

    As another school year gets underway, it’s time to clean up the status updates and issue another round of random thoughts. Think of it this way, at least it’s a break from medical updates.

    • I got stuck behind a school bus for disabled students this morning. The bus number was 1313. I'm hoping it's not an omen for the week...

    • We survived the first full week of high school with both girls going in opposite directions to opposite schools. But with our washer in Valhalla, can I survive weekend laundry?

    • Did someone slip the universe a full moon and forget to tell us about it?

    • I saw snippets of “Dodgeball” again and couldn’t help thinking that Gary Cole would make a terrific announcer at the Olympics.

    • Agree or disagree: Most reality shows are just semi-scripted soap operas with on location production values.

    • One thing about life with ADD: I have no patience for chronic of any kind.

    • Recently I looked at my teenage daughters' rooms and wondered if 1-800-GOTJUNK takes reservations. (Yes, Mom, I recognize that they come by it naturally.)

    • Have you ever had one of those days in which you don't care that Fat Tire will give you a spare tire, among other things? (Those under age 21 are not allowed to comment.)

    • The line at Starbucks was so long that I witnessed three blind dates. I worried that the person ahead of me in line wouldl ask if she can have a grande wedding announcement and a venti engagement ring.

    • I wore my Nationals shirt and my Astros cap to take Emma to school this morning. Figured I would cover all my bases — first to worst.

  • Post-Election Random Thoughts

    Welcome to the November edition of “Random Thoughts: Post-Election Edition”

    As I’ve mentioned previously, this is a particularly intense time for the family as we prepare to mark four birthdays in the midst of the holiday season. My way of coping is by coming up with some pithy thoughts that I hope are worth sharing…

    Here’s what I’ve pulled together this month:

    • Have you noticed that every small town now refers to itself as "historic"? Is that some sort of code?

    • America's newest obesity epidemic: TV movies that turn this into the 42 days of Christmas. (It is a break from reality TV, however...)

    • So I'm starting to experiment with Twitter (@ourrealityshow), but from what I can tell, "hash tagging" is a term created by people who were never good at tag in school.

    • New drinking game for parents: "Not Your Maid."

    • I like the ellipsis. For some reason ... is a perfect representation of my genetic ADD.

    • Emma, after dropping her at a friend's house slathered in holiday lights: "I feel so under decorated."

    • I love being awakened — from a dead sleep, on consecutive nights no less — by a son who starts the conversation with, "I have a question..."

    • Speaking of drinking, my sweet daughter ordered coffee for me while I got gas. I told her to get mine with my usual shots. She asks, "Can I buy those? I'm just a kid."

    • I’m wondering if my idea for a new reality show, "White Trash Train Wrecks," is original or smacks of the obvious.

    • Am I the only one who thinks the election has receded from the public's consciousness faster than a middle-aged man's hairline?

  • December’s Randoms

    Before leaving for Texas, I thought I’d put together a few more random thoughts…

    • I’ve realized that holiday movies on the Hallmark and Lifetime networks are made for the sole purpose of giving Tom Arnold work.

    • Wise words from the oldest: "You know you're in trouble when the parent pulls out the middle name."

    • TPMS: the unfortunate, but appropriately monikered, light that comes on when your tire pressure is out of whack.

    • Emma and Nicholas are my children who know how to function, at least somewhat, on little to no sleep. Tonight, Emma had friends over to celebrate the "end of the world" that wasn't. Now she's working on a present for a friend, even though she's been up since 5:30 am and has to do four Frosty Follies shows tomorrow. Wonder where she gets it?

    • "It's the end of the world as we know it..." After this week's adventures, I'd have to agree. But I feel fine.

  • 10 Random Thoughts

    Ten random thoughts from the first couple of months of 2012:

    • I think construction companies working on the DC Beltway should be required to set up a Pothole Survivors Fund.

    • I keep trying to convince people that I'm deathly allergic to laundry lint, but no one seems to believe me...

    • "Vpbsyopm;syopmd!" is what happens when you type "Congratulations!" without paying attention to where your hands are on the keys. Hello, Monday...

    • Quote of the day from Mr. Malaprop (aka Ben): I didn't see the sunlight last night.

    • Weekend Alliteration: Resilience, resolve, reserves, resolution. Sadly, no rest.

    • Visiting my mom while at a conference in Houston, I’m happy to report that her version of a dive bar is not the same as mine.

    • Walking around the exhibit floor at the superintendent's conference, I thought of a new business venture: superintendent uniforms. Oxford shirt (tie optional), blue blazer, khaki or grey pants, and a lapel pin. You could rule the market...

    • Observation from the slightly jaded and sleep deprived file: If Friday the 13th is bad luck, then what does that make Monday the 13th? At least on Friday you can look forward to the weekend.

    • Don’t you hate it when a good night’s sleep turns into a bad night’s nap?

    • And finally, my kids don't get "Parenthood," what we do or the TV show. That's probably why the ratings are low, and why I'll miss them both when they're gone...

  • Random Thoughts: An Update

    • We seem to be suffering from some sort of 10-year curse: The car died. The fridge and dishwasher died. The stove was replaced (in part to accommodate the new dishwasher and fridge). And now the air conditioner is on the fritz. Yet the cat still is lying on the chair in the living room and hacking up gray balls of food mixed with fur. What is wrong with this picture?

    • This is the same cat that was sitting on the window sill, trilling like a bird. When she spotted me making a move toward the fridge, she jumped down and started meowing for ham. It's the feline version of an early morning identity crisis.

    • 6:30 a.m. at the office: How my wife and daughters regularly get up and out this early brings my everlasting admiration ... and sympathy.

    • The new car conundrum: I never saw my make/model on the street until I bought it, and now it's everywhere...

    • I would like to amend Home Depot's customer service motto to read: "You can do it. We can help ... If you can find one of us."

    • Recently I had to beg Emma to let me post congratulations to her for winning an acting award at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre. It only took 30 hours and several bribes before she would allow me to do this. Of course, what would you expect when the award is for "Exasperated Lady"?

    • Emma asked why I post details about our family. My response: When you're a writer, family is fodder.

    • Spring allergies: My life is a Claritin commercial right now, except I'm still waiting for the "clear" part.

    • I saw that a friend's son was turning 13 and suggested that we start a support group for parents. And then I realized there already was a hair club for men...

    • I’m not ready to move forward an hour. I need all the time I can get.

  • A Few Observations About Music

    If you know me, you know how much I love music. All kinds, live or studio. Ones that play to the masses — there’s nothing better than a good pop song — and ones that draw a handful to each show.

    My primary requirement is that the majority of the instruments be played by humans, not machines. Also, as a writer, I greatly appreciate anyone who can tell a story through words and/or emotions. The best performers can do both.

    Here are a few other thoughts I’ve had recently…

    • I'm an Elvis fan. Not a member of the cult, but one who recognizes his appeal, talent, and ability to cut across generations. (I'm also a big fan of the TCB band. Damn, they were good.)

    • Have you ever listened to an album and wondered, "What were they thinking when they chose THAT as the first single?"

    • Jon Dee Graham has long been one of my favorite artists, in part because he’s so freaking smart about the small things in life. Here is a quote in which he paraphrases Bruce Springsteen, another favorite:

    "Springsteen was here for South By Southwest and, the one thing that he said that really just killed me, because once again, it proves to me that artists are all the same…he said you must have absolute confidence and you must doubt completely, and you must be as brave as possible but you need to worry all the time, and you need to know that you're the best act in town and yet at the same time know in your heart you suck. And that's it, right there, that's it."

    • Milkduds and Merlot: Sounds like the end of a long day, the name of a country song ... or both.

    • And finally, a belated RIP to Etta James, who died in mid January. This song is not one of her best known, or even one of her best, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

     

  • Focusing the Chaos

    “The art of creating something helps focus the chaos that's inside my head."

    (Thought of this quote the other day while working on a Stage Dad column, then realized after doing a Google search that it's an original ... or an edited version of someone else's.)

  • Random Thoughts: May and June

    So another school year is winding down. Ben is in New York training for Billy Elliot. Nicholas is taking care of him for three weeks between now and his opening night as the show resumes from its layoff and heads to Des Moines, Appleton, Wis., and finally Louisville. That’s where we hope he will make his debut.

    I had a little time tonight to write, so I thought I’d pull together some more random thoughts from the past couple of months. See if you see a theme:

    • OK, Monday, let's try this again... And if you have a moment, I have some ideas on how to make this better for both of us.

    • I love the fact that, after going to the doctor last week for a "wellness" check up, I've felt like crap ever since.

    • My teenage daughters have rarely spent much time together over the past few days, so who could have guessed that a stolen tank top on the car ride home would be the sole topic of "conversation"?

    • With the school year ending, I realized this fall that we will have three high schoolers, a college student, and eroding tendrils of sanity.

    • Somehow I got a lot accomplished this week, managing to cram 14 days into 7. Not sure how that happened, and not sure I want it to again.

    • Sadly I’ve been making frequent stops at Home Depot, better known at the Third Circle of Hell.

    • We went to a college graduation ceremony where concessions were sold (popcorn & pizza with caps & gowns?). And then, after trolling through a three-mile backup on the NJ Turnpike, I parallel parked the van in midtown Manhattan on a Saturday night. After that, who needs a bucket list?

    • "End Road Work" — the three sweetest words I saw on the trip.

    • I figured out officially why I hate mornings so much: I have an East Coast address and a West Coast brain.

    • There is so much more I wish I knew. But I’m still learning…

    • I’m going to dinner with Jill in DC to celebrate our anniversary tonight. (Actual day is tomorrow.) Fingers crossed ... I picked the place.

  • May's Meanderings

    Another set of random meanderings:

    • Apparently the previous owner of my cell phone number was a woman named Sharmin who decided to use her bills as toilet paper rather than pay them. And, from what I can tell, a few of her exes met a similar fate.

    • R.I.P. Roger Ebert. Words fail me; thumbs don't. Thumbs down to the news of your passing; thumbs up to your life and legacy.

    • Kate got a guinea pig last night. The cat is trying to decide whether it's simply an intrusion or an all-you-can-eat buffet.

    • The alleged great thing about going to Las Vegas (other than the obvious things, which were all great) was that I wouldn't be suffering from allergies while I was there. Wrong, and as a bonus, I added another sinus infection for good measure.

    • Kate's newest discovery: Dancing and driving don't mix.

    • Sick thought after being stuck in traffic for 2 hours: I hope I get to see what "caused" this.

    • Sat-urday has nothing in common with sit-ting, sad-ly.

    • Personal view: The only path to knowledge and understanding is by speaking out, speaking up, and — most important — listening.

  • Random Thoughts: Travel and Time Edition

    Spring travel and time changes spawned this most recent set of Random Thoughts. Tell me what you think…

    • Apparently my daily need for afternoon caffeine has not adjusted to the time change.

    • I'd like to be the person who gets residuals from the line, "Caution, the moving walkway is ending."

    • I saw two billboards on the drive to the airport that would only be placed next to each other in Florida. One touted a hospital as the "#1 joint replacement center in America." The other advertised the opening of Barbie's Dream House in the summer of 2013.

    • Snowquestration in our area and Congress have a couple of things in common: They're all wet (at least mostly wet), with a lot of wind signifying nothing.

    • Recently I realized, not for the first time, that teenagers put the I in "id."

    • Every time I go to the dentist, I leave looking like Bill Murray in "Caddyshack."

    • The one show you won't see on Food Network: "Kitchen Cleanup." But if they're desperate for programming, make sure they give me a call...

    • When your pilot and flight attendant say, without irony, that the ride might be a little bumpy, think of it as a bonus trip to Six Flags.

    • Airports are the only place where a guy can take off his belt in public and not be considered a perv.

    • The worst sign of a bad writer is the over reliance on the shift key. 

    • Cheese is crack for the lactose tolerant.

    • Northern Virginia: The only place where a 20-minute trip on a Saturday afternoon can turn into an hour because of four traffic lights.

  • Random Thoughts: February 2013

    • The smell of my coworkers' microwaved lunch wafting through the stairwell is a tease that never lives up to the initial hype.

    • For me, there's not much difference between spatial and spacey.

    • Sometimes a low-key, lo-fi, do next-to-nothing Valentine's is the best kind of all. Love to my spouse and kids.

    • I got home and slept 10+ hours last night. My snoring was taped and will be used as the soundtrack for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 13.

    • Trust me, towel softness is an accurate predictor of a hotel's star rating.

    • The editor in me appreciates it, but I'm still not happy that 141 characters is considered verbose.

    • Biggest no duh line I’ve heard recently: "This Wizards broadcast brought to you by Alka Seltzer Plus."

    • I’m beginning to think I was a long distance trucker in a past life...

    • Modified Willie Monday: I can wait to get on the road again. Really. Truly. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

  • Medical Clearance and Other Thoughts

    Six days after I made it one step closer to 50, I also made it through four — count 'em, four — doctors' appointments. All went well, a miraculous feat in the land of the HMO.

    The big news: Nutrisystem wants my blood to be its spokesperson. Unfortunately, company executives took one look at the rest of me and vetoed the idea. (Either way, no more blood thinners for me!)

    Still, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm at the age where I carry a medications list in my wallet as a conversation starter.

    A few other random thoughts from recent days:

    • Did anyone else notice that the Texans' season ended when Schaub threw an INT with 13:13 on the clock?

    • Having wrestled to replace a toilet seat in a cramped, tiny bathroom, I now understand why it took so long for society to have indoor plumbing.

    • Dear Oscar: You might have the old school credibility. Emphasis on the old. With us, 50 is the new lifetime achievement award. Now, ar' go ... yourself. Love, the Golden Globes...

    • Speaking of which, I just saw a commercial for The Hurry Cane on ESPN. Now that's an interesting match of product and medium.

  • Random Thoughts: Heating Up

    Five more random thoughts from June and July:

    • So let's see: VA to DC to NY to DC to VA in 36 hours. And tomorrow, we head south to NC. Whee...

    • Recently I went to The Apple Store, praying for the future of the family iMac and trying not to drool.

    • I saw Toy Story 3 with my kids and thought of my children, parents, toys, and the passage of time... How could an animated movie made solely on computers about plastic figurines touch me so deeply? It must have been Father's Day.

    • December, with four birthdays and Christmas, was the month from hell. June, with all of the end-of-year activities, has become the new December.

    • Did Lebron James’ overhyped “Decision” remind anyone of Geraldo opening the Capone vault? Just saying…

  • Random Thoughts: The Lucky 7

    A Lucky 7 set of Random Thoughts for your amusement:

    • Insomnia update: I love those nights when long-suppressed REM — not the music group —whispers in my ear, "Hey, let's go to the gym. Have you ever tried boxing?"

    • I have a 12-year-old whose new catchphrase is "Unemployment sucks."

    • Why do people with "Diplomat" on their license plates show no diplomacy behind the wheel?

    • Memo to Virginia/Tea Party legislators: Can we talk about your decision to slash the VDOT budget? Give me a call. I'm just sitting here in my car and, apparently, I have all the time in the world to talk...

    • Favorite recent Facebook post: The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this: You cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal,' 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians ... It creates a hostile work environment.

    • As spring moves toward summer, I’m staring down the barrel of global warming — in my house. The AC guy better show up early tomorrow...

    • In Chicago, the shuttle from the airport is so packed that if we get stopped, I fear everyone will have to show proof of U.S. citizenship.

  • Random Thoughts: Fall Edition

    Tonight, I was watching Ben at his ballet class and thinking of Emma at gymnastics, Kate at confirmation, and Nicholas rehearsing and (inevitably) doing homework. As much as I gripe at times about the rigor (mortis) of parenting, it doesn't take much to remind me of how lucky I am...

    Of course, that being said, I'm having a bit of trouble reconciling the fact that Broadway Dance Center has six flat screens that are showing five dance classes and the Disney movie "Enchanted."

    Six screens and no sports?!? No Yankees-Rangers? "Enchanted"?!?

    With that, I bring you another version of “Random Thoughts”:

    • Recently, I heard a woman in her late 40s say, proudly: "I've never seen Casablanka, and what was that other movie, the one that has "wind" in the name?" Gotta love public transportation in Virginia.

    • The Today Show is soliciting stories on "What went wrong for your child in school?" for a future segment. GREAT (he says sarcastically), but where's the balance here? Why not say, "What went RIGHT for your child in school?"

    • Why do some people think that taking advantage of others who are doing their best should be considered a blood sport? My jaded, cynical side knows the answer; the side that tries to be optimistic is befuddled and not amused in the slightest.

    • Insomnia keeps trying to buddy up to me, especially when I’m in New York. In the city that never sleeps, I think I need a nap.

    • Which leads me to my favorite line in recent memory: "Insanity in New York is really just the status quo..."

  • End of Year: Random Thoughts

    Anyone who knows us also knows that the last two months of the year are, well, insane. And when you have an ADD brain to go with it, the random thoughts flow during times of stress.

    A sampler from the past two months:

    • I went to Ben's parent-teacher conference (he's on the B honor roll so far) and loved hearing how he could do so much better if he didn't have that "other thing" in his life.

    • Small towns are like families. Some are more caring, while others are more dysfunctional. But when tragedy strikes, it serves as a harsh reminder that family ties come first.

    • I saw the Macy's parade balloons being blown up in New York and felt great satisfaction when I noticed the 50-foot Sponge Bob moored down in a wave of netting. Yes, it must be the holiday season...

    • Best way to describe the day: I’m just um… well… huh (?)… um… well ... just.

    • An editor’s lament: Some pieces are labors of love; others feel like the writer was going through labor ... and left it for you to deliver.

    • Adapted lyric of the day: "Summer breeze makes me feel fine... Winter wind makes me whine." (Bonus points if you don't get that song stuck in your head...)

    • This just in from Ben: "When a girl asks, 'Do these pants make my butt look fat?' Don't agree — it's just good common sense."

    • I’m proud of all of my children for their overall attitude, courage, fortitude, and inherent decency. (Of course, this view is subject to change without notice.)

    • Holiday traffic from D.C. to New York: Geriatrics with walkers are passing us on I-95.

    • Nicholas always asks to go "buy stuff." He calls that the "manly version of shopping.

    • And on a more serious note: When (and more important, why) did we stop agreeing to disagree and decide that personal attacks are an appropriate substitute for civility?

  • Random Thoughts: End of Year

    A few more random thoughts to wrap up the year…

    • You know you're tired when your first thought every day is wondering whether you'll be able to squeeze in a nap.

    • I realized, not for the first time, that I'm living in a petri dish of puberty.

    • Gotta say, I’m sad that someone took my personalized license plate: SHLEPN4.

    • Emma is performing in an abridged version of The Nutcracker at Barnes & Noble. The fact that it's being done between the Self Improvement and the Addiction/Recovery/Relationships section somehow feels right. 

    • I’ve got a has a gripe with my friends at Union Station: I understand that you're under construction, but when you're trying to catch a 4:30 am train, having one sketchy guy dressed in a black hoodie and blocking the parking path is NOT a substitute for decent signage.

    • One way to help solve that is for me to get a van traffic controller license.

    • Recently I went dress shopping with Emma. The recurring thought I had was, "I am so not qualified for this..."

    • I realized not too long ago that I was off by a day in the "How long will the Kardashian nuptials last?" contest. Damn...

    • While dropping Kate at school this morning, I saw a girl in what appeared to be a Halloween costume. When I asked Kate about it, my 9th grader shrugged and said, "That's the way she normally dresses. It's no big deal."

  • Summer's Random Thoughts — 2011

    Summer typically is a time for your brain to relax and decompress a little, that is unless you’re trodding the trails between New York and D.C.  on a regular basis. Then it’s just like any other week in the year.

    But all of this traveling back and forth does allow the brain to ping pong between one thought and another. So here are some more random thoughts from the past few months…

    • Pithy thought: You know you're a grown up when writer's block replaces penis envy on the top 10 list of stressors in your life.

    • When someone has a miserable day/experience and posts about it on Facebook, is it acceptable to "like" the post? Something about that seems wrong to me...

    • I don’t like running, but I seem to do a lot of it — in dress shoes.

    • In case you’re wondering, here are the steps for the NYC tourist waltz — 1, 2, 3, gawk. 1, 2, 3, gawk.

    • We’ve had so much bad weather recently that I feel like a drowned rat. Isn't this why I moved away from Texas and hurricane season?

    • Best status I saw during the rainy period: Seattle called -- it wants its weather back.

    • I realized that "Your article has been posted" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Your article has been published," but it's something all writers must deal with these days.

    • As Labor Day approaches, I just realized that the Sunday before school starts is technically hump day of a three-day weekend.

    • Just curious, what happened to the "customer is always right" model? It’s times like this that I'd settle for "The customer is occasionally correct."

    • Exchange of the week — Ben to Emma: Why didn't I get the smart gene? Emma to Ben: Because you got everything else.

    • I left my brain somewhere. If you locate it, please let me know…

  • Random Thoughts: January to March

    Some random thoughts and meanderings from the first quarter of the year…

    • A teen’s words of wisdom: "You aren't a true New Yorker until you're pooped on by a pigeon ... And that has happened to me."

    • I think a great name for a band would be Bastard Sons of Clarity.

    • On the list of things I never thought I'd do at 11 pm on a Sunday: Watch my son stretch his calves while eating Beefaroni and watching "Auction Kings" on The Discovery Channel.

    • I’d like to pitch a new movie idea: Slumlord Millionaire, the story of a man who owns buildings that are not rent controlled and feels like he can make money by stealing from the pockets of good and (reasonably) quiet tenants.

    • I recently told Emma that 50 years ago, her grandmother performed as a member of the Kilgore Rangerettes at the Cotton Bowl. Her response: "You mean they had football back then?" Obviously, she hasn't been to Texas enough...

    • And one more for the books: Overheard while walking through the rain, a homeless guy yelling, "Mother Nature is taking my motherf-ing bed."

  • Five Random Thoughts...

    This is something, I’m sure, that will be a recurring part of “Our Reality Show.” My thoughts are pretty random most of the time anyway, so here goes:

    • Every time I hope something will turn out one way, the opposite is bound to happen.

    • The designers of I-95 South were sadists in a different life.

    • Christmas and birthday month are coming soon, so I’m looking at a list, checking it twice, and wishing I could find people to delegate to... Not happening.

    • My car’s “Check Engine” light keeps coming on. I hope the bill doesn't come with a "Check Pulse" notice.

    • New motto for United Airlines: "United We Sit ... While You Wait."

  • A Few Random Thoughts...

    • My first (and hopefully last) analogy about the 2016 presidential campaign... To anyone complaining that sequels are bad, it’s worth noting that the third movie in the trilogy is often the worst of all.

    • Question: What part of “no” do children not understand? Is it the N, or the O?

    • Humidity is Mother Nature's version of a bad home perm.

    • I can understand why our cat does not like to have his food and water bowl close to the litterbox. What I don’t understand is why my kids insist on leaving food, drink and wrapper remnants in their rooms.

    • Great Quote: "If officials can decide not to implement laws they dislike, then equality under the law—is just a slogan.”

    • Great Quote #2 (courtesy of Nicholas): “I wonder who coined the term asshole and made into a bad thing.”

    • The best compliment a parent can receive is when someone tells you that your child has not changed, just grown up.

  • More Random Thoughts

    More random thoughts of late:

    • Summer is not even here yet and I’m searching for a 12-step program to survive the humidity.

    • Parents stuck in cars waiting in the North Carolina heat came up with a fill-in-the-blank cheer when their school’s administration of the SAT ran more than an hour late. The cheer? "You say Cluster! I say ----! You say Cluster! I say ----!"

     

    • Obviously the outdoors editor didn't write that headline. (But after you laugh, remember, it happens to everyone at some point.)

    • 2 a.m. wakeup call: How am I going to get all of my work done when all I want to do is sleep? It’s tough to do it when you’re in high school, let alone at age 50.

    • Helping Emma edit a paper this evening, I realized she's as adverse to punctuation as Ben is to vegetables.

    • Few things are worse than being stuck in a bar with shitty soft rock music.

    • Just curious: What have others said to you in tough times that have either helped, or made you want to scratch someone's eyes out?

    • As if the fear mongering we are bombarded with daily wasn't enough, the number of unsolicited calls I get advertising home security systems would drive anyone up a tree.

    • Thank you for the kind words after I noted that Jill and I had "survived" 19 years of marriage (mostly her tolerating me). We had a low-key celebration with a late afternoon happy hour and a nice dinner in Alexandria. Here's to a great 20th year together and to many more after that.

  • Random Thoughts: Frequent Flier Version

    The past week has been so busy that the random thoughts have floated by fast and furious. With the holiday weekend, trip to Texas and Nicholas’ graduation all in the past 14 days, thought I’d share a few…

    • Perhaps this seems odd, but one of my favorite songs in "Billy Elliot" is "Solidarity." Given our history with the show, it's not the go to piece you might expect. But as a parent with a family I care deeply about, it's one that resonates, especially now.

    I try to let my wife and kids know at every opportunity, in some form or fashion, that nothing matters more than family. Solidarity — despite our inclinations to disagree about the most mundane of things — is most important of all. Take the statement for what it is.

    • Speaking of “Billy Elliot,” I think I was the only person who didn’t post something marking the show’s 10th anniversary last week. Great show, great story, and one that will be part of our lives forever. It’s definitely a musical for the ages…

    • I-95 on a holiday weekend is a transportation TBT: You are reminded quickly of what travel was like on the cattle trail.

    • I was catching up on some reading while Jill drove for a bit on the trip down to North Carolina and saw a tweet that captured perfectly my opinion on the Josh Duggar situation. It read: “@OMGkee: Josh Duggar = Hypocrite. ‘Don’t judge me’ is the 1st thing judgmental people say when they're exposed. You want the mercy you refused others.”

    All I can add to that is, “Amen, sister.” 

    • It’s no surprise that another TLC show is biting the dust — the network mercifully pulled the plug on “19 Kids and Counting” repeats over the weekend. What was surprising is that they didn’t announce a reality celebrity death match between the Duggar clan and Honey Boo-Boo’s mother after she threatened to sue TLC. Of course, there’s always the next sweeps period.

    • One last bad joke: Has anyone noticed that Jim Bob Duggar looks suspiciously like he could be the older brother of Jack McBrayer, who played Kenneth the Page on “30 Rock”? If McBrayer is looking for another role and the Lifetime biography of John Edwards doesn’t work out, he should give it a shot.

    • I have no love for the Atlanta airport. I don’t know anyone who does. So it came as no surprise that I had to go from C50 to T02 in 20 minutes to catch my connection, or that the connecting flight then showed up 20 minutes late. That at least gave me some time to stop sweating.

    • Which leads me to the official Memorial Day/start of summer statement: Humidity is my body’s self-irrigation system.

  • April’s (Mostly) Random Thoughts

    As the month comes to a close, here's a summary of random thoughts and observations from the month.

    alrightythen: Walking to the gym the other day, I passed a woman sitting on a garbage bag smoking a cigarette with surgical gloves on her hands. And this was in a parking lot in Northern Virginia, not on the streets of New York.

    The Nats are back: Jill and I recently enjoyed our first Washington Nationals game of the young baseball season. The tickets were part of a three-game pack that was part of my Christmas present to Jill last year. Happy holidays come to those who wait, and the Nats won (a true gift of its own, considering how poorly they played at the start of the year).

    iPhone lightning: I like taking pictures with my phone and posting them to Instagram, even though I know they will be nowhere nearly as good as you get with a regular DSLR. On an unrelated trip to the gym (yes, I’m going relatively consistently again), I managed to capture lightning during a heavy storm on my phone. Again, not as good as I would have gotten on my Canon, but pretty cool nonetheless.

    No smoking … PLEASE! A non-smoking room in a North Carolina hotel is sort of like car lanes in Manhattan — just a suggestion, not a rule to live by necessarily. ... Ick.

    My poor cats (not): When you're tone deaf, whistling while you work brings tears to the eyes of small animals. Ask mine. They'll tell you...

    No Kentucky, but Duke? Thank goodness Kentucky lost its chance at a perfect season and meant I didn’t have to root for Duke as March Madness dragged into April. So my personal streak continues, even though Duke won yet another National Championship. Oh well…

    Quote of the Month

    "Wonderful things can happen when you sow seeds of distrust in a garden of assholes..."

    Thank you and godspeed to the cast and crew of Justified, one of the best — and, in that inimitable Elmore Leonard way, often one of the funniest — shows I've had the pleasure to watch.

    Congratulations! 

    And on a truly random note, congratulations to author Tim Federle, football player JJ Watt and actress Glenn Close for their recent actions. What did they do?

    1) Tim published a new illustrated children’s book about a young boy with ADHD called Tommy Can’t Dance, which serves as proof that he’s been peering into our lives again.

    2) Watt, the Houston Texans football player, rushed out onto the court to congratulate 12-year-old Nicholas Connors for his National Anthem performance at a Houston Rockets game.

    3) And Close, whose sister is bipolar and whose nephew has schizoaffective disorder, was profiled in Variety’s “Power of Women” feature for her work with Bring Change 2 Mind to raise awareness about mental illness. She captured why she believes in this so strongly, articulating the feelings we’ve long had about the issue.

    “We thought the best thing to do was work against the stigma that surrounds mental illness,” Close told Variety, noting that one in four people are affected by it. “It’s a chronic illness like anything else.”

  • Recent, Mostly Random Thoughts

    I’ve spent the last week plus in my home state of Texas, and was reminded that the state has its own special brand of humidity, even in May. As I wipe the sweat from my brow to my feet, here are a few random thoughts about the trip:

    Texas weather forecast set to music: "Gray skies, scowling at me. Nothing but gray skies, do I see..." Joy.

    Next day memo to Mother Nature: Please put on your Depends.

    Homework for the over-21 set, courtesy of Howard's convenience store in Shiner, Texas.

    • Want proof that people share way too much even in small towns, without the benefit of a smart phone or computer? I overheard this gem in a store in small-town Texas: "I had chicken livers last night and they kinda stuck with me. Don't need anything now except a bathroom."

    Newsies Notes

    The reason I’m here, at least in part, is to see Ben and the various sets of family members who have come to see “Newsies” during its four-week swing through Texas. As always, it’s been great to see old friends, meet new people and take lots of photos. 

    Here are some random notes about the show…

    Senior groupies: My mom has several groups of retired friends from Alpha Delta Kappa who are seeing "Newsies" this month. The median age of my son's groupies just went up ... a lot.

    Always nice to see your son on the cover of the local entertainment section when you walk into a hotel.

    • Shut Up & Dance: This is what happens when you buy a new car and suddenly see the unique model you purchased everywhere you turn. Watching the video was the first time I'd heard this song. Now I hear it everywhere by Walk the Moon, the group that originated it. (Of course, I like the “Newsies” version the best...)

    • I am continually amazed by the consistency of the show’s ensemble and the kindness of the entire cast and crew. As a “Stage Dad,” it hasn’t always been easy to see my 17-year-old son living his life independently (almost), but my heart is full after seeing the lifelong friendships he has built with this very special crew of people.

    "Newsies" now moves from city to city in these 18 wheelers with the musical's logo painted on the sides.

    On more serious notes…

    • Amtrak derailment: As someone who has taken the train from DC to NY often, and loves it, my heart goes out to the Amtrak passengers and crew who were killed and injured in the recent tragic derailment in Philadelphia. Let's hope the NTSB and local investigators get to the bottom of this sooner rather than later, and when they do, that the necessary investments in our nation's aging and outdated transportation infrastructure are made as soon as possible. It's a sad reality that tragedy is usually what finally forces us to respond to something we should have dealt with a long time ago.

    Baltimore riots: I'm the last person to advocate for corporal punishment, but watching the mom go after her son for throwing rocks at the Baltimore police, I think this instance was one in which a little whup ass was more than justified. (The day this was exploding all over social and mainstream media, I went to Baltimore to see the scene for myself. Photos and essay here.)

  • Random Thoughts: Spring (sort of) Edition

    Recently, I shared a photo from PrideFest Milwaukee that had an unexpected response. The photo said simply: “I don’t think the worst thing that could happen to me is raising a child who is gay. I think the worst thing is to raise a child who is cruel to those who are gay.”

    The post got an amazing 745 likes on my Facebook page, as well as a few of the anticipated responses that come when you share something that has long been part of the culture wars. I stand firm in my beliefs, but the reaction also is one reason I don’t post much overtly political stuff on Facebook. My friends/acquaintances cut across the political spectrum, and there’s no reason to incite one side or the other. Enough of that is going on as is.

    However, one response is worth examining in more depth. It came from a person who wrote, “The worst thing is to raise a child who is intentionally cruel to anyone … not just gay people.”

    No one disagrees with that, but the statement somewhat misses the point of the post, which calls attention to a group that has been abused and disenfranchised for some time.

    Long ago, I realized that children are not inherently racists/misogynists; more often than not, they’re puppeting what they hear from parents and family members. The danger comes when intolerant thoughts become ingrained beliefs and values.

    This is a simple fact: You can talk to, influence, help, offer, beg, plead, hope and pray, but you cannot "prevent" someone from making a bad decision.

    No matter how far we’ve come as a country, all you have to do is read the headlines and it becomes clear that intolerance and anger toward people who are different from us still has a strong grip on many in our nation. For every two steps forward, we take at least one step back, sometimes more.

    And we only have ourselves to blame.

    ••••••

    Quote of the month from Rosanne Cash: "You want to know where you come from and who you are connected to. From the most simple — tracing back your name — to the most complex of what sticks to your DNA over eternity. The musical lineage I have. The emotional and spiritual lineage I have. What my kids will get from that. All of those questions become really important. They certainly did for me."

    ••••••

    Here are some other random (and for the most part more tongue-in-cheek) thoughts from the past month:

    • Snow days make you realize there's a fine line between togetherness and trapped.

    • The morning after daylight savings time takes effect: There's no way it's already 11 a.m. Oh, yeah...

    • If you want to know why parents do what they do sometimes, blame Daylight Savings Time and the groundhog. That covers at least 90% of it this year...

    • Some days you wake up and feel bitter. At other times you are grateful. The latter definitely applies this morning, despite a night's sleep that feels like the cat's siesta on the ottoman.

    • After the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament: So UNC is smarter than Harvard. At basketball. Barely...

    • So, if you're deciding to run for president, you think you'd be smart enough to purchase your domain name in advance. Don’t believe me? Take a look at www.tedcruz.com. (Not surprisingly, the page no longer exists at the apparent “request” of the Cruz campaign.)

    ••••••

    And finally…

    Dear Mother Nature: With regard to your seemingly ongoing disrespect for those of us who live on the East Coast, all I can say is live through this lingering allergy/cold/curl up in a fetal ball feeling. Then you'll understand why my acronym of choice for you right now is GFY.

    On behalf of the Mid-Atlantic and New England states, thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.

    Glenn

  • Random Thoughts: January & February

    Metaphor for life: Candle burning at both ends

    The brain does some strange things when it is on overload. And mine has been overloaded more than usual recently. So here are a few random thoughts jotted down over the past six weeks or so...

    • Subtle: Another word not in the average teen's vocabulary. Nuance: Not even in the same dictionary.

    • Sometimes you try and succeed. Sometimes you try and fail. Sometimes, you just try.

    • I'm not sure what bothers me more: Brian Williams being suspended for telling lies, or Bill O'Reilly defending him.

    • It's Mondays like this that make you wonder how the Duggars weren't the Donners in a past life.

    • State of the Union with a Democratic president and Republican Congress =  Really glad I didn't play the "bipartisan" drinking game.

    • Our adopted cat must have been a dog in a past life. And apparently he pissed someone off during the reincarnation process.

    • Shouting Freebird at a concert should be just as punishable as saying Fire! in a crowded theater.

    • The day Newsies reported the highest grossing week in the history of Chicago theatre, fans of Billy Elliot marked the third anniversary of the show's closing on Broadway. When Newsies played to huge crowds in Charlotte, Broadway marked the fifth anniversary of the Ragtime closing. Theatre in January. Sigh.

    • Classy player. Classy guy. Congrats to Craig Biggio on a much deserved honor — the Baseball Hall of Fame!

    In the spirit of true bipartisanship, I think we can all agree on one thing: Ewww...

  • Random Thoughts and Observations

    In addition to working on freelance projects (including two conversations on a book edit, changes to a manuscript, and reporting/writing another story), my multitasking brain decided to embark on a mass blog update that’s long overdue. (And not yet complete, but keep coming back...)

    Any major update of this sort would not be complete without a few random observations.

    Politics and Society

    I’m not overtly political, but here are several things that have stuck with me over the past month. Would like to know what you think…

    1) Why didn’t we see stories on the 20th anniversary of the Republican Revolution of 1994 and whether “The Contract with America” had a lasting impact? I realize news organizations have been drastically cut, but the legacy of political division spawned (at least in part) by that contract can’t be denied.

    2) Speaking of legacy, when is someone going to start comparing President Obama to LBJ? The parallels between 1967 and now are striking: Tough economy, ongoing war we can’t seem to win or extricate ourselves from, racial tension and unrest, divisions over big programs/ideas and the government’s role. Who says history doesn’t repeat itself?

    3) Bill Cosby’s denials/refusal to discuss the allegations against him are either delusional or genius. If the allegations are true, then it is a sad and shameful abuse of power and privilege that makes you question whether you can trust those whom people turn into icons. That said, when you look at the list of icons who have fallen, and the shameful and shady circumstances under which the falls occurred, you have to wonder.

    4) That brings me to this quote from Dolly Parton that I saw earlier in the month: "If people want to pass judgment, they're already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else is committing."

    Other Random Notes

    • Does anyone else think that Rob Lowe's DirectTV commercials are an extended audition for next year's American Horror Story?

    • Love this statement from Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

    • Homecoming: When high school football stands become a mosh pit.

    And finally, a few tweets from @ourrealityshow

    • Trying to build the Twitter and start using it more. Sadly I'm not a Newsie.

    • Bought the Basement Tapes Complete this week. Obsessed.

    • Twits treat tweets like... an alliterative process that falls off well before 140 characters.

    • Your writer's block is bad when you can't even fill 140 characters, let alone 1400 words.

    • Write, write, write... Right?

  • Five Random Thoughts...

    You know you're in trouble when...

    • Someone tells you that karma has no impact on your success or failure. (Tell that to karma…)

    • Seeing an old friend on the street feels like the “Amends Nostalgia  Tour.”

    • Monday comes in 47 different languages over the course of several days.

    • You’re the last person to realize that a snake never goes in a straight line.

    • The honey-do list has morphed into a dead sea scroll.

  • 12 Random Thoughts

    Random thoughts and observations from the past month

    • When asked to describe Kate, I have said, “Kate is 13. She’s bipolar.” Heads nod. Then I say, “She’s 13 … and she’s bipolar.” That’s when the looks of sympathy begin.

    • We went to the beach recently with the kids, which provided another opportunity for me to clarify a key definition. Some, naively, call family outings like this a “vacation.” I call them a “trip.” Vacation, for me, is an opportunity to do things on my schedule. I can sleep when I want, wake up when I want, read when I want, and talk without fear of being interrupted by someone who is not yet of legal status. Everything else is just a “trip,” often in more ways than one.

    • I can’t help but feel sorry for Nicholas. It must be tough (and confusing) to be anal-retentive and ADD at the same time. Or you could just call it being a teenager.

    • Two things I’ve always wanted to do: draw and sing. The talent fates intervened, however. I can’t draw a stick figure and I lip-synch “Happy Birthday” even (or especially) in large crowds. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a family of singers and artists who allow me to live with and through them somewhat vicariously.

    • The maturity and creativity of my kids — and conversely, the lack thereof — astounds us daily. This is especially true when Nicholas is here. I never know what project, poster, performance (or mess) is lurking when I walk through the door.

    • Emma and Kate remind me of the sisters in Jennifer Weiner’s book, In Her Shoes. The only thing they will end up having in common is shoe size. Right now, their theme song should be “Cat Scratch Fever”; parents of teen girls are old enough and have the experience necessary to understand that Ted Nugent reference.

    • Speaking of which, I never thought I would include Ted Nugent in anything I ever wrote. Of course, I never thought I would come close to agreeing with Glenn Beck on anything either. But the other day, I found myself nodding at his recent non-confrontational stand on gay marriage. Further proof that it’s a strange world we live in, folks.

    • I still can’t get over the fact that I have four kids in four schools in three states, or that the baby of the family (by a minute, as Emma proudly notes) is living, thriving and holding a steady job in Manhattan at the ripe old age of 12. Go, Ben!

    • As a child, I was always frustrated by the things I couldn’t do (see the previously mentioned drawing and singing). And, believe it or not, I hated to write. Then I found a keyboard and realized that I finally had a tool that could match the speed at which my brain works (plus the value-add of spell check). Recently, I decided to take up non-kid related photography and started snapping just the things that catch my eye. Finally, I’ve found another outlet for artistic expression.

    • Kate has a new theme song, and it’s a mash-up of two pieces you might be familiar with: “It’s just another Manic Monday … Tuesday, Wednesday — Happy Days!! Thursday, Friday…”

    • I may have said this before, but just in case: Emma is the Marilyn to our Herman, Lily, Grandpa and Eddie. And, with all due apologies for mixing my 1960s sitcoms, I’m sure there’s a Cousin It thrown in there somewhere for show.

    • A work discussion about the merits of cloth vs. disposable diapers led to this epiphany: I now know why I have certain reading habits. (Editor’s note/Public Service Announcement: The following statement is not necessarily for the squeamish and may qualify as TMI.)

    The aforementioned habit is the result of my mom — a teacher through and through — putting a calendar in front of my face while I potty trained. Little did she know that by teaching me numbers — “Mommy, what is 2 and 1…?” — she was planting a seed while I sat on the plastic bowl.

    The less said here, the better.

  • The Status Update

    Status updates on Facebook are endlessly fascinating, stretching from the mundane and ridiculous to the witty and profound. The genius is the connection it helps you make to others.

    I guess — no big surprise here — that’s why they call it “social” networking.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of what people are cooking for dinner, unless they are willing to share or — at the very least — provide the recipe. I’m genuinely not interested in someone’s obsessive chronicles about walking the dog, or how drunk they are (unless pictures are included, and they never should be, if you think about it). Status updates that take the form of a sermon or are overtly political also are a turnoff.

    However, there are times when you bond with a person after years or hear about someone’s achievement or tragedy that affects you in ways you never would have realized without the almost instant, real-time connection. Sometimes I have laughed out loud; others have left me with tears in my eyes.

    Most of the time, I look at status updates as a fun writing challenge, a way to push out a one or two-line description of the day, the punch line without the long-winded set up, or life’s simplest truths in just a few words.

    Here are some of my favorites from the past few months:

    • Favorite line of the day (paraphrased): "Your lives are a reality show. The sad thing is nothing gets eliminated."

    • Since when did customer service become an oxymoron?

    • For every drop of rain that falls, another Northern Virginia driver loses an IQ point.

    Of course, because your name is at the beginning of each update, you really should start your sentence with a verb. That presents a challenge as well, if you think about it.

    On that front, here are some more favorites that started with my name first and then moved quickly toward the punch line. So you say, “Glenn Cook…”

    • Is in NYC with four kids by himself. To quote the father of our country at the start of the war: Gulp.

    • Has a stuffed up nose and the back of my throat feeling like an all-you-can-eat raw bar buffet.

    • Was reminded again tonight that the only thing getting thinner on me is on the top of my head.

    • Is happy that I don't have to dress up tonight. Any more weeks like this, and I will officially pull the dry cleaning business out of the recession.

    • Is waiting at the Z Pizza in Lorton to pick up dinner. An hour ago I was told it would be 25 minutes. Should have picked the Over instead of the Under on 2-for-1 night.

    • Needs to reintroduce his daughters to each other: Oil, meet water.

    • Can't believe it's been three years since my father died. He's gone from having a ringside seat to a spot in the upper balcony, but I'm sure he can see just fine.

    Have you ever given this any thought?

  • Fragments

    Here are some more things from the “random observations” file. I’ve wanted to write on some of these topics (and probably will) but this will have to do for now. So here goes…

    • Insomnia is something I’ve dealt with periodically since childhood, and it only has gotten worse since I became a parent. Something about having three kids in a year will do that to you.

    • Some days the struggle to get something done is like herding cats. Others, it’s like giving a cat a bath. At best, all you can hope for is a pissed off look.

    • Self-publishing your own book (or blog, for that matter) is akin to being on the homeschool honor roll. You’ve gotten the grade, and it’s a good one, but look at who is doing the grading.

    • My mom says I learned to read while potty training. And I haven’t stopped since. Newspapers, magazines, books (fiction and non), e-mail and the previously mentioned status updates — you name it and it draws my attention for at least a few fleeting seconds. Anything, that is, except for an instruction manual, science textbook, or the work of E.M. Forester, whose novels have the effect of an elephant tranquilizer. Need a cure for that insomnia? Try “A Passage to India.”

    • You want your children to do their best. Even if they fail, as long as they’re doing their best, everything will be fine. One problem with this platitude: No one wants to see their children fail.

  • Fragments, Part II

    I became a reporter because it combined three things I enjoy: talking to people, learning what makes them tick, and turning their stories into something for posterity (or, in the pre-Internet era, at least the bottom of someone’s bird cage). I became an editor to make a living wage, or something resembling that.

    •••••••

    Technology has replaced the automobile — and to an extent, the college textbook — as the most expensive disposable in our lives. Remember when it was said that you lost 30 to 50 percent of a new car’s value the moment you drove it off the lot? The same goes for every new device you buy. The moment you pull it out of the box, something newer and better is replacing it on the store shelves.

    ••••••

    With four children having birthdays in the month of December, you could say God’s master plan was for me to emulate Him. Or, you could also say that He just has a wicked sense of humor.

    •••••••

    Another car/technology analogy: I’ve gotten five to seven years out of the last two desktops we’ve had in our house. By the time each was replaced, the reason was because they each had more than 200,000 miles on them, parts could be found only in junkyards, and the only way you could get them to run was if you slapped the top with your right hand on alternate Tuesdays.

    ••••••

    Ben’s life in New York is, for the most part, confined to a 20-block radius from 34th to 54th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. Rarely a day goes by in which he doesn’t bump into someone he knows. I never thought I would say this, but there are times when Midtown feels like a small town, albeit with a huge amusement park in the middle.

    ••••••

    Another December observation: Between the birthdays and Christmas, I have to wonder what fates I tempted to have 11/12ths of the family’s annual expenses come during a single 2½ week timeframe. (I exaggerate on the expenses part, but only slightly.)

  • Fragments, Part III

    Paraphrasing from a recent Facebook post: As an editor, you learn that some pieces are labors of love. Others feel like the writer was going through labor ... and left it for you to deliver.

    ••••••

    I always tell my children: “Don’t tempt karma.” The minute you feel like everything is going great is the same moment fate’s shoe gets ready to drop and step on your head. This week’s example: Just when I started feeling good about the holiday season, the garbage disposal breaks, the plumber comes five hours late, and the replacement is defective — all because I bragged that my daughters got along at the mall a few hours earlier…

    ••••••

    Most of us move through life in relative anonymity. Remember when it used to be that the only public recognition most people received was is in the police blotter (too bad) or the obituaries (too late)? Now, with the rise of social networking and the connections you make through Facebook, Twitter, et al, anonymity is fighting with print to become the “new vinyl.”

    ••••••

    Recently in North Carolina, I rediscovered something that folks there have turned into an art form. Drivers pull out in front of you without hesitation, tires screeching. They travel about 30 feet and signal to turn left. Drives me up a tree (so far only figuratively).

    ••••••

    Despite being a writer and editor for a full 3/5ths of my life, I do believe that print eventually will go the way of the vinyl record. School textbooks already are obsolete thanks to technology and our ability to instantly access information. And the Internet goes a long way toward satisfying our need for instant gratification, which in turn feeds into people having less and less patience to wait for what’s on the printed page. Why should they, when you can have it fed to you through headphones?

    ••••••

    That said, I believe print still has a place because, like the vinyl record, paper provides a rich, full-bodied experience that you can’t get by tapping on a computer screen. Although, after getting one for Christmas, I must say the iPad comes close…

  • Tell a Story in 100 Words or Less, Part 3

    Sixteen years ago, the day after turning 30, I took the first huge risk of my life. I stood next to the front porch on a chilly afternoon and poured out my heart, knowing that in one sense I was destroying the person I had become and reclaiming the person I wanted to be at the same time. For the first time, life’s gray was erased – black pushed to one side, white to the other. In its place was a feeling I knew I’d never replicate, even though the grays of life would return. About this, however, nothing is gray.

  • Tell A Story in 100 Words or Less, Part 5

    My 3-year-old son and I went to see my parents in Texas. It was his turn to ride on a plane. Benjamin wasn't nervous; he entertained rows 18-30 with tales of swimming ("If you don't move your feet, you'll sink like a stone!") and said landing was "just a big bump." In Texas, Benjamin and his grandfather shared a common love of toys, and Granddaddy gave him several Superheroes to take home. On our way back, he played with the plastic toys, then leaned up, smiled, and gave me a kiss. For a brief moment, I was his Superhero.

  • Random Thoughts: Don’t Get Pithy With Me

    Why these lodge in my brain, I don’t know…

    • After Osama Bin Laden was killed: After 9/11, we united in mourning. Tonight, we united in celebration. Let's hope the next reunion doesn't take almost 10 years.

    • Rapture Observation #1: Sign of the pending apocalypse #2747 — The person cutting your hair compares your cowlicks to crop circles.

    • Rapture Observation #2: Note to friends who like R.E.M. — If it really is the end of the world as we know it, then why am I not feeling better about the situation?

    • Rapture Observation #3: OK, so who said the Rapture had to occur at 6 p.m. EST? Not that I'm worried or anything, but I think we gotta give it until 6 p.m. PST. No wait, what other countries are not in our time zone? Should we wait until 6 p.m. their time, too? At this rate, it could be Tuesday here before it's Rapture time somewhere else, so I guess I just have to stay tuned... Or not.

    • When the Day is Just Not Going Well #1: I’ve had the sort of day that can be summarized in this lyric: "Sometimes you're the windshield. Sometimes you're the bug."

    • Religion and Sports: I enjoyed reuniting with Seekers (not the Rapture kind) for three hours of softball practice/scrimmaging today. Despite not having played for almost a year, I was in midseason form. (Of course, when you have no form, the time of the season truly doesn't matter...)

    • Obscure Pop Culture Reference #1: Airing tonight on TNT in a 24-hour continuous loop — "An Easter Story" (2011). Ralphie's grandson is relentless in his pursuit of a new golf umbrella as he walks the streets of Manhattan. The only problem: His parents won't let him get one because they're the only parents who believe that umbrellas will poke someone's eye out.

    • Why Would Anyone Do This? Bumper sticker of the day, seen on a car pulling into a Wal-Mart: "My baby daddy was inmate of the month. Freedom Bail Bonds."

    • When It Is 105 Degrees Outside … In June: I’m not terribly familiar with the game of golf, but I'm convinced that Mother Nature needs a mulligan.

    • Beauty Tip of the Day: I can assure you, if I ever get to take a vacation, you won't see a picture of my feet by the water. Nothing against the water; I just don't like my feet.

    • Obscure Pop Culture Reference #2: There's so much spam on Facebook today (Osama, how you look in 40 years) that I'm starting to feel like a Monty Python group member at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

    • The Power of Creativity: I’ve been listening to music this evening — the usual diverse groups of musicians who make no sense on anyone's mix tape — and am reminded of the power of creativity that electrifies our lives. If I can tap into that collective for just a few minutes, then life as I know it will be complete.

    • When the Day is Just Not Going Well #2: It's a bad day when you feel like approaching the convenience store clerk with a 12-pack of beer and asking if they have a co-pay.

    • The After the Sleepless Night Because of the Hurricane: Based on Facebook status updates in the Greater Washington D.C. area, WTOP has announced that a "nap watch" will start at noon today and move into a "nap warning" by 3 p.m.

    • After a Hurricane and an Earthquake in the Course of 2 Weeks: My nominee for Time's Person of the Year — Mother Nature.

    • Overheard at Lunch: "Nothing ticks me off more than eavesdropping on a boring conversation."

    • OK, So This One is Pretty Pithy: You know you're a grown up when writer's block replaces penis envy on the top 10 list of stressors in your life.

    • When the Day is Just Not Going Well #3: It's a bad day when you walk into a meeting and the other person excuses himself to get his wet blanket out of the car.